The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Edward Pavlik, M.D., director of the Ovarian Cancer Screening Research Program at UK HealthCare.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2021) — September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In the U.S., ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any of the other gynecological cancers. Ovarian cancer too often appears without any symptoms at an advanced stage where the prognosis is very poor; however, when caught early, ovarian cancer is curable with surgery alone.
Ovarian cancer risk increases with age. It can be associated with a history of endometriosis, having family members who have had ovarian cancer, a personal diagnosis of breast cancer, Lynch syndrome (HNPCC), an Ashkenazi ancestry or certain predisposing genes. Women who never have had a full-term pregnancy, have had trouble getting pregnant, or delivered their first child after age 35 have increased risks for ovarian cancer. If you are concerned about these factors, speak with your doctor about your risk and if genetic counseling may be appropriate for you.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are most often associated with advanced disease and include:
- abdominal bloating or swelling, back pain;
- quickly feeling full when eating;
- discomfort in the pelvic area;
- fatigue; and
- changes in bathroom habits.
However, a variety of common conditions can also display these symptoms.
Consequently, it is important to detect ovarian cancer early. The UK Ovarian Cancer Screening Research Program is focused on early detection by screening the general population using transvaginal ultrasonography. This is the same modality used diagnostically when a person has symptoms or when someone is considered at high risk for ovarian cancer. The procedure is painless, takes less than 10 minutes and is free at UK.
You are eligible for free ovarian cancer screening at UK if you are:
- Over the age of 50 (including women who have no symptoms and no personal history of ovarian cancer)
- Over the age are of 25 and have a family history of ovarian cancer or other risk factors
Although there is no known way to absolutely prevent ovarian cancer, there are some things that are associated with lowering the risk of ovarian cancer including:
- multiple pregnancies, especially before age 26;
- oral contraceptive use (protection continues for up to 30 years after discontinuation); and
- surgery that removes the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.