The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) has announced the first national consensus on ovarian cancer symptoms. Often referred to as the “silent killer” due to the common belief that there are no warning signs or symptoms, ovarian cancer is the most deadly reproductive cancer.
The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation led this effort to form a consensus in response to ovarian cancer survivors who long held the belief that there were common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Researchers, including Dr. Barbara Goff, a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Washington, have conducted conclusive research that demonstrates that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist.
“This agreement on common symptoms of ovarian cancer hopefully will lead to earlier diagnosis when a cure is more likely,” said Dr. Goff. “We know that when women are diagnosed in Stage I of the disease, it is 90% curable. Unfortunately, until now there has been no agreement on common symptoms, allowing women to go undiagnosed, despite visits to the doctor, until it was too late.”
Unlike cervical cancer, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, making symptom recognition and regular pelvic examinations the primary ways to detect the cancer early.
It is estimated that more than 22,000 women will be told they have ovarian cancer this year and more than 15,000 will die from this deadly cancer. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. At present, about 80% of these cancers are not diagnosed in their early stages, leading to a reduced chance of survival.
In May 2007 GCF conducted a nationwide poll to determine how best to make women aware of this new consensus regarding ovarian cancer symptoms. The poll revealed that while women agree that it is important to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer, 65 percent say that they do not know enough about the disease. Over 90 percent of the women polled say that they get their most valuable health information from friends or family, and their personal experience with a disease. Advertising by advocacy organizations like GCF, brochures in medical offices and the Internet also rank high.
“Now that there is agreement about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, we must get this information in the hands of every woman and front-line physician” said Pam Faerber, a 13-year ovarian cancer survivor. “We have debunked the myth that this disease is a ‘silent killer,’ and both physicians and women need to act based on this knowledge. When a woman visits a doctor complaining of these symptoms, ovarian cancer must be considered,” she said.
“GCF is grateful to the many professional and advocacy organizations, and survivors who made this consensus a reality,” said Karl C. Podratz, MD, PhD, GCF chairman. “At GCF we say that where there is knowledge, there is hope, and the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer gives women hope for a cure.”
Women are encouraged the visit the Women’s Cancer Network (http://www.wcn.org) to take a risk assessment and to learn more about women’s cancers.
The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure public awareness of gynecologic cancer prevention, early diagnosis and proper treatment. In addition, the Foundation supports research and training related to gynecologic cancers. GCF advances this mission by increasing public and private funds that aid in the development and implementation of programs to meet these goals.
Ovarian Cancer Consensus Statement Symptoms Originating Organizations
Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, American Cancer Society
Ovarian Cancer Consensus Statement Symptoms Endorsing Organizations
CancerCare, Conversations: The International Newsletter For Those Fighting Ovarian Cancer, EyesOnThePrize.org, FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Gilda’s Club Worldwide, Gynecologic Oncology Group, In My Sister’s Care, International Gynecologic Cancer Society, Lynn Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Cervical Cancer Coalition, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Ovarian Cancer Canada, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, SHARE: Self-help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer, Society of Gynecologic Nurse Oncologists
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