This month you have been hearing a lot about breast cancer, and you will likely see pink ribbons everywhere you go. However, women are at risk for more than just breast cancer. Ovarian cancer and cervical cancer affect many women across the nation.
Ovarian cancer affects the almond-sized ovaries located in the lower part of the abdomen. There is no way to screen for ovarian cancer. The symptoms vary from woman to woman and may also be symptoms of problems other than ovarian cancer.
Contact your gynecologist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Swelling or bloated abdomen (you may notice clothing feels tighter)
- Frequent pressure or pain in the abdomen area
- Feeling full more quickly
- Increase in urination frequency
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Vaginal bleeding outside of normal menstruation
You may find yourself getting tested for digestive problems, so if you have any risk factors for ovarian cancer, see a gynecologic oncologist to have a biopsy as soon as possible.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- Personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Over age 55
- No pregnancies
- Menopausal hormone therapy
You can decrease your risk for ovarian cancer by using oral contraceptives for at least 5 years, having children (especially before age 25 or multiple pregnancies), and by breastfeeding your children.
Cervical cancer is another risk for women. The cervix is located in the pelvis and connects the vagina and the uterus. Early symptoms and detection of cervical cancer are rare. Some symptoms you may experience in later stages include:
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after intercourse or douching
- Longer or heavier periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Increase in vaginal discharge
- Pain in the pelvis or during sex
You may be at higher risk for cervical cancer if:
- You have had HPV (human papillomavirus)
- You do not get regular pap smears
- You smoke
- You use birth control for more than 5 years
- You have had many sexual partners
- You have had many children
- You have a weak immune system or have been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
Getting the HPV vaccine is an important step in reducing cervical cancer risk for teenagers and young women. In addition, a yearly pap smear can detect cancer cells that may develop into cervical cancer. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any risk factors or experience symptoms.
If you have questions about gynecological health, the team at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center can help. For general questions or to find a physician, call Consult-A-Nurse at 1-888-256-7692. Don’t wait another day to protect yourself from ovarian and cervical cancer.