Protect yourself: know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer

By: Allison Kropff Email
By: Allison Kropff Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - You may have noticed Monday your Local 8 News personalities wearing teal, or teal ribbons.

They were showing support for ovarian cancer awareness. It's not extremely common here, but doctors say it still affects too many women.

"There's about 20,000 cases diagnosed each year and the bad thing about ovarian cancer is that it has a very high rate of fatality associated with it," says Dr. Kristopher Kimball, a GYN Oncologist with UT Medical Center.

But the fight against the disease is happening every day.
And it starts with you.

"Prevention is key. Because the diagnosis is a tough one and treatment is not perfect and we're shooting for perfection," says Dr. Kimball.

Despite that, he says there are signs to look for when it comes to early detection.

Symptoms include bowel irregularities, abdominal pressure and bloating, increasing fatigue and unexpected weight loss, pelvic pain and changes in urinary habits.

"These are very common symptoms, it's if they're recurrent and they are persistent and the routine things have been ruled out," adds Kimball who says since there aren't great screening tests, there are things you need to pay attention to.

"Number one, know your family history, we say, know your kinfolk! Has anyone had breast cancer at a premenopausal age, before age 50 who has been diagnosed, have they been diagnosed and treated for ovarian cancer. That puts you at higher risk."

Treatment involves major surgery followed by chemotherapy.

"It usually involves what's called a total hysterectomy and a cancer staging procedure what we shoot for is optimal bulking, getting out all the cancer that we can possibly get out," says Kimball.

He also says a 10 year history of birth control pills at a younger age are protective against ovarian cancer later in life. Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of birth control.

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