Ovarian Cancer Screening
Who is at risk of ovarian cancer?
- Older women
- Having one or more relatives who have had ovarian cancer
- Having abnormalities in a gene, called BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Never being pregnant
- Women with obesity
Your risk may be reduced through:
- Using birth control (pills, patch, vaginal ring, injection)
- Being pregnant or breastfeeding
- Having your tubes tied to prevent pregnancy
- Having your uterus or ovaries removed
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
These can be vague and hard to pin point, during the earlier stages. You may experience
pelvic or abdominal discomfort, bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full, increased abdominal size, or rushing to urinate frequently. Please note these symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions.
If you have developed one or more of these symptoms in the past year, be sure to see your doctor.
What are the risks and benefits of having an ovarian cancer screening here at Blacktown?
Screening tests are carried out to identify early signs of disease eg ovarian cancer, before symptoms are experienced. The most common cancer screening tests are Pap smear for cervical cancer and mammography for breast cancer. Ovarian cancer screening is not yet well established as these two screening programs, however, research in this area by the IOTA Group (ADNEX Model) is very encouraging.
The potential benefit of ovarian cancer screening here in Sydney is the chance to find the cancer at very early stage, hence reducing the risk of dying.
The potential risk of this screening is a “false positive” screening test. This is a test that is positive when no disease is present. This can lead to unnecessary surgery for many healthy women.
Screening tests for high risk women
A woman with a “high-risk” family history is someone who has a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer in more than one relative or has family members with cancer who have certain characteristics. In addition, this may be recommended:
- If you have a BRCA mutation and you have your ovaries
- You have Lynch syndrome (also called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer [HNPCC]) and you have your ovaries
One of the screening tests would be a pelvic ultrasound.
This uses sound waves to create an image of the organs in the pelvis, including the ovaries. The test usually involves using an ultrasound probe on the abdomen and inside the vagina.
When used as a screening test for ovarian cancer, vaginal ultrasound of ovarian cancer is a good tool. It is still recommended for ultrasound findings to be combined with clinical findings and blood tests eg CA-125. Pelvic ultrasound is not recommended as a stand-alone screening test for ovarian cancer.
The frequency of these tests is not evidence based yet but annual checks for high risk groups is recommended.