A gynaecologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, Dr Rachel Awobusuyi, has explained why women after the age of 40 years must take ovary test seriously.
The physician notes that it is difficult to detect symptoms of ovarian cancer but he stresses the importance of being proactive about it.
He says, “The ovary is a hidden part of the body. It is not like cervical that everybody can easily see. Because it is a hidden organ in the abdomen, by the time the issue comes up it is usually late,” she says.
Awobusuyi suggests that women should go for regular ovary test to know if their ovaries are working well.
“Women after the age of 40 should take ovary test seriously because they are more prone to have the disease. There are times the symptoms start with abdominal pain, and by that time it is usually late,” she notes, adding, “It could also be a predisposed disease in the sense that if there was a history of ovarian cancer in a certain family, women in that family should watch out for it.”
When to see a doctor
Because it is difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage, most health authorities suggest that the best way to help reduce the chances of developing more advanced stages of it is by taking a positive, proactive approach to the disease.
According to medicalnewstoday.com, to ensure the best outcome, a person should talk to their family doctor or the gynaecologist about any potential symptoms as soon as possible.
Signs may include any unexplained symptoms of ovarian cancer, or any new abdominal or pelvic symptoms, that are unrelated to another diagnosed condition. Also, when a woman does not respond to basic treatment, for example, back pain that does not go away with rest and icing, indigestion that does not improve with diet changes and exercise that lasts for more than two weeks and occur for more than 12 days a month, all call a need to get worried.
The risk factors that may make some people more likely to develop ovarian cancer than others include family history of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer, having the BRCA1 and BRAC2 gene, having Lynch syndrome, never being pregnant, obesity, some fertility and hormone medications, endometriosis and aging.
Experiencing some of the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer does not mean that a person has the disease. Ovarian cancer cannot be self-diagnosed at home. Diagnosis requires a range of tests and usually the involvement of a specialist.
To diagnose ovarian cancer, a doctor will start by asking questions about symptoms including when they began, how they have responded to basic treatment, how long a person has had them, how often they occur.
The doctor will go over a person’s medical history and ask questions about their family history of cancer, especially any history of ovarian and breast cancer. The doctor will perform a pelvic examination to see if the ovaries are inflamed, enlarged, or if there is fluid in the abdomen.
A doctor will order additional testing if he notes that there are any abnormalities during the pelvic examination symptoms which indicate that a person may have ovarian cancer or when a person’s medical or family history makes them more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
Before or after these tests, a doctor will refer the individual to a gynecologic oncologist, a doctor that specialises in treating cancers of the reproductive system. The oncologist will help a person decide the best way to proceed with treating and managing the condition.
The tests that doctors use most frequently to detect ovarian cancer initially include:
In this test, a doctor inserts an ultrasound probe into the vagina. The probe emits ultrasound waves that echo back, producing an image of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
This test can help identify potential growths and determine whether they are solid growths or cysts, which are non-cancerous, fluid-filled sacs.
If the doctor identifies a solid growth, they will probably request a biopsy to determine whether the growth is cancerous or non-cancerous.
The CA-125 blood test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 that is in the blood. Many people with ovarian cancer have high levels of CA-125 in their blood.
However, those with other, less severe conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis, often have high levels of this protein in their blood, too.
Not every woman with ovarian cancer has elevated levels of CA-125 in their blood. According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, around 80 per cent of those with advanced ovarian cancer have elevated levels of CA-125, while 50 per cent experience high levels in the early stages of the condition.
Computed tomography scans
CT scans involve passing special X-rays through the abdomen. A computer processes the results to create cross-sectional images that allow doctors to see sections of the abdominal cavity and pelvis.
A biopsy involves inserting a very fine needle into the body and withdrawing a small section of the growth or mass, which is sent to a laboratory to check for signs of cancer. The results of a biopsy are an essential element in making a final diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
Screening methods and prevention
Despite research efforts, there are currently no screening methods available to detect ovarian cancer in people who do not have any symptoms or who are not at a higher risk than usual for developing the condition.
The Punch News/MedicalWorldNigeria