September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month
Submitted by the MUSC Gynecologic Oncology physician team
More than 1,100 women in South Carolina and 77,000 in the United States will be diagnosed with some type of gynecological cancer this year.
Awareness of these cancers by women and health care providers is important in improving the chance of making the diagnosis early in the disease process so that optimal care, with good prognosis, can be achieved.
Highlighting women’s health and disease prevention, Gov. Mark Sanford has again designated September as Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month and President Bush has designated this month as Ovarian Cancer Month. On the local, state and national level, the public is formally prompted to focus on how women can act to help doctors detect and prevent the progression of these cancers.
The Pap smear was the first screening test for a cancer and remains the paramount test for cervical cancer, having decreased the incidence and mortality of that cancer. The test will help identify thousands of women in South Carolina this year who will have a precancerous lesion of the cervix, which can be successfully treated and prevent cervical cancer.
Although invasive cancers in the United States remain low due to the Pap smear, 180 new cases will be reported this year in South Carolina. Many of these women will die of their cancer.
Unfortunately, South Carolina has one of the highest death rates from cervical cancer in the nation. More than half of all cervical cancers are in women who have never had a Pap smear, and more than one-third are in women whose last Pap smear was many years ago.
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. An annual Pap smear literally can save lives.
In addition to the Pap smear, cervical cancer also can be prevented with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The HPV vaccine is approved for females 9-26 years old and is available at MUSC clinics.
Meanwhile, ovarian cancer kills more women each year than cervical and uterine cancer combined. For years, this was considered a silent cancer, and the diagnosis was made only in the advanced stage. We now know that symptoms for ovarian cancer can appear early in the disease process. These include abdominal bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly, and increased urinary frequency. Women with these symptoms for more than a few weeks should see a physician.
Prompt medical evaluation, including a pelvic examination, may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early-stage diagnosis is associated with improved survival. Recognition of these symptoms is important, because no reliable screening test exists for ovarian cancer. For information, visit http://www.wcn.org.
The Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Hollings Cancer Center are members of the Gynecologic Oncology Group, a multi-institutional cooperative cancer group sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. This affiliation affords us the ability to offer to our patients study protocols for the evaluation of new treatments. In addition, new drugs are available to us before they are commercially available. The Gynecologic Oncology Division is committed to excellent patient care, cutting edge therapy including robotic surgery, research and education.
Should a gynecological cancer develop, we are ready to assist in the early diagnosis and successful treatment.
Friday, Sept. 5, 2008