Ovarian cancer symptoms can be vague

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ovarian cancer"Ovarian cancer is insidious. It has no real symptoms," says Dr. Henry Sprance, a gynecologic oncologist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

Nor is there a reliable test for ovarian cancer, he says.

"CA-125 (a blood test) is not a screening test for ovarian cancer. There's a lot of bad information on the Internet about that," he says. "We're looking at other proteins in blood serum levels that may give us information, but that's all experimental now."

Symptoms that point to the cancer are vague, he says.

These include pelvic or abdominal discomfort or pain; persistent gas, nausea and indigestion; frequent and/or urgent urination without an infection; unexplained weight gain or loss; pelvic or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or a feeling of fullness; fatigue; and unexplained changes in bowel habits, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla.

"We need to get the word out to women about these symptoms," says Sprance, director of the cancer genetics program at Jersey Shore. "We need to not assume the symptoms are intestinal. It's also a matter of educating physicians. And, women must inform doctors of a family history of cancer.

"Family history is very important. Women need to be aware of a history of endometrial, ovarian, breast, colon and pancreatic cancer. All have a genetic component, although not every cancer is genetically linked.

"There are two genes we can test for in breast cancer, and they are connected to ovarian cancer," says Sprance. "Ovarian cancer is described as being in stages: one, only in the ovary. Two, also in the pelvis. Three, also outside the pelvis. Four, it involves liver and lungs.

"Seventy-five percent or more of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in stages three or four," he says. "Only about 12 percent of people with stage three or four will be disease-free at five years. That has not changed in a long period of time.

"What is changing is the number of patients surviving longer with the disease. We talk about 55 percent surviving longer than they used to; some get to five years or longer. The disease is being treated more like a chronic disease now."

This means women go into remission, cancer recurs, treatment begins again, then the cycle starts over, he says.

He and his partner, Dr. William J. Mann Jr. — the chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department — are "the only gynecologic oncologists in Monmouth and Ocean counties who provide gynecologic oncology care from diagnosis through care to end-of-life treatment," he says.

source - Asbury Park Press 

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