Dear Dr. Roach: In a recent column on screening tools, you made a brief statement about ovarian cancer. As a cancer survivor with metastasis to the ovary I was hoping to have read something within the response on screening for ovarian cancer. What is your response to someone in regard to screening for ovarian cancer if she presents with symptoms? M.L.
Answer: Ovarian cancer, like pancreatic cancer, is a dangerous and deadly cancer because it spreads early in its course, and its early symptoms are vague and often not recognized by the patient or are dismissed by her physician.
Screening, by definition, is looking for cancer or its precursor before there are symptoms. Although many have tried (including several types of blood tests), there still are not yet any generally accepted screening tests for ovarian or pancreatic cancer. For this reason, patients and physicians need to be aware of the symptoms, as vague as they are, and be ready to evaluate those symptoms promptly in order to have a chance of finding the disease at an early enough stage to have a good chance at cure.
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