A Guide to Detecting and Screening for Ovarian Cancer

Everybody knows somebody who has experienced cancer, and for this reason, it's important to have regular health checks and cancer screenings. One of the cancers affecting women is ovarian cancer. This is now the eighth most common cancer to affect women in Australia, and with no known ways of preventing this disease, it's really important to have regular screenings. Here's everything you need to know about symptoms of ovarian cancer, and how to get checked for it at your local clinic.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer? 

One of the issues that occur with an ovarian cancer diagnosis is that women don't realise they have this cancer in the first place, and the later it is detected, the lower the chances of treating the cancer successfully. This is because the symptoms of ovarian cancer are much like symptoms of other less serious conditions. Typical symptoms include bloating, feeling full more quickly than usual, feeling like you need to urinate more often than usual, and pelvic or abdominal pain. Although these symptoms are often associated with more benign diseases, the strength of these symptoms is often more intense in the case of ovarian cancer.

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your local clinic to ensure that you have these symptoms checked out for ovarian cancer as well as any other conditions associated with these common symptoms.

What does an ovarian cancer check entail?

Unfortunately, some of the most common checks for other types of cancers, such as pelvic exams and Pap tests do not always demonstrate evidence of ovarian cancer. The only methods that can lead to a certain diagnosis are a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test. If symptoms of ovarian cancer persist, a women's health care clinic will often suggest both tests to lead to a clear diagnosis.

A transvaginal ultrasound takes place within a clinic and involves the insertion of a wand that will be lubricated with gel before insertion. It picks up on sound waves that bounce off internal organs, and these are projected onto a monitor as images. No radiation is used in this process, so it is entirely safe.

CA-125 is a type of protein found in the blood, and women with ovarian cancer typically have more of this protein. This blood test is often used in conjunction with an ultrasound because it can't lead to a definitive diagnosis alone. If a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it is also useful to monitor CA-125 levels with this blood test throughout the course of treatment.

If you have any further questions about ovarian cancer, your GP will be able to provide you with the information you need.