Blood Tests for Ovarian Cancer

A family friend called tonight; she heard that she should request a blood test from her OB/GYN to help detect ovarian cancer.  The test is called CA125.  She wondered what I think.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include abdominal or pelvic pain; vaginal bleeding; abdominal bloating or distention; irregular periods; and changes in bowel habits.  These symptoms are very common, but before you get too concerned, keep in mind that ovarian cancer is pretty rare as it accounts for just over 3% of all cancers (lung cancer causes 10 times as many deaths and breast cancer about 4 times as many).

The best way of finding ovarian cancer is to have your annual physical and pelvic examination and to let your doctor know if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer.

But what about the blood tests? At this time, is seems that blood tests for ovarian cancer would lead to more unnecessary and invasive procedures with their own risks and costs. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Qualitiy, the risks of these types of screens can outweigh the benefits.

If you have any questions about ovarian cancer screening, you should discuss them with your gynecologist. Some other ovarian cancer facts include:

  • Most cases of ovarian cancer occur in the seventh decade of life and is uncommon in women under 40
  • If you have a first degree relative that has had ovarian cancer, your risk may be 3-4 times greater
  • Pregnancies seem to reduce the lifelong risk of ovarian cancer
  • Oral contraceptive use reduces the risk of ovarian cancer
The rate of many cancers decreases when people eat more vegetables (up to 49% reduction in ovarian cancer rates).
Be Well,
Richard

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