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September 09, 2019

Ovarian Cancer Isn’t Like Other Cancers – Here’s Why

Sophia L. Thomas DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

Ovarian cancer is relatively uncommon compared to other cancers. Only 22,000 women will get ovarian this year, while more 200,000 women will get breast cancer, but ovarian cancer is far deadlier. Why is there such a big discrepancy? Here’s what makes ovarian cancer different: 

  1. There is no standard, reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer.  
  2. A pap smear won’t detect ovarian cancer – only cervical abnormalities. 
  3. A pelvic exam is also not reliable, especially in detecting early-stage tumors.   
  4. Transvaginal ultrasounds can find an ovarian mass, but cannot determine if it’s cancerous.  
  5. The more periods a woman has, the higher her risk – which explains why age and never having children are risk factors.  
  6. There are more than 30 types of ovarian cancer, each based on the type of ovarian cells from which it develops.  
  7. Working dogs may help detect ovarian cancer by sniffing out Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in blood plasma samples.  

If you have elevated risk of ovarian cancer, talk about precautions and screening options. The more women know about ovarian cancer, the better equipped they are to work with their provider to monitor symptoms and detect problems early.