Being Proactive with Annual Exams Can Save Your Life

Dr. Jennifer D’Abarno

Being Proactive with Annual Exams Can Save Your LifeThere are so many areas in your life where a little proactive action on your part over here will save a ton of energy, trouble and stress over there. Typical examples include things like:
. Observing regular oil changes in your car.
. Getting into a regular 3-5 day per week workout routine.
. Paying off more than your minimum balance on the credit cards each month.

Today, however, we’re going to talk about a biggie: Visiting your OB/GYN for your annual pelvic exam and learning the signs/symptoms of ovarian cancer.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – aptly named since awareness is often the key to early detection of this insidious form of cancer.

What may seem like a small inconvenience at first glance can save your life. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 22,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Of those women, 14,000 will die from it. To put it in more comprehensible figures, about 64% of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will lose their life as a result.

Those are some seriously scary statistics. While ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly gynecological cancers, it can be successfully treated as long as it is caught early.

Catching ovarian cancer early is a bit tricky. There is only one blood test, CA125, that is used diagnose it. However, the CA125 test does not detect all forms of ovarian cancer and can sometimes result in false positives due benign conditions like smoking, viral illness, or others. For that reason, it is important to spread the concept of AWARENESS.

The more AWARE you are about ovarian cancer, its risks and the signs and symptoms associated with it, the less likely you will be to become the 1-in-75 women who develop ovarian cancer.

Importance of Annual Pelvic Exam
Dr. Jennifer D’Abarno echoes the recommendations made by the American Congress of OBGYN and states that, “Starting at the age of 21, all women should have an annual pelvic exam performed. Ovarian cancer screening is a very important part of the annual exam.”

You may wonder why an annual exam is so important if there is no test to detect ovarian cancer. Your annual exams are a chance for you and your doctor to discuss what is going on for you, compare your weight to last year’s weight and evaluate if anything unique may have crept up that you haven’t paid close attention to. Your doctor’s close attention and your own awareness of your body – along with the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer – are your best chances of detecting and then beating the disease if you are diagnosed with it.

Patients with a family history of ovarian cancer and those with BRCA 1 or 2 should receive more aggressive screening. The general risk for developing ovarian cancer is 1.4%, this risk increases with a family history to 4-6%, and women with BRCA 1 or 2 have a staggering 40-60% chance of developing ovarian cancer.

“Unfortunately, compliance with routine annual exams is low although it is in fact the best thing women can do to combat ovarian cancer. Along with making the annual pelvic exam a priority, women need to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer,” exclaims Dr. D’Abarno.

Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
. Sudden weight gain. You know your body’s rhythms – as well as its natural pace for gaining and losing weight. If you seem to be gaining pounds more rapidly than normal, especially if you haven’t notably changed your lifestyle habits, make an appointment with a doctor.
. Sudden bloating. There is bloating, and then there is bloating. If you are prone to bloating before or during your period, or after eating certain foods, that is normal. That type of bloating recedes naturally. Bloating associated with ovarian cancer does not typically ebb and flow – it remains persistent and should be checked out.
. Abdominal discomfort. Are you experiencing unusual abdominal discomfort? Abdominal discomfort that is the result of something you ate, your menstrual cycle or a bacterial or viral infection will typically clear up within about two weeks. If you experience atypical abdominal discomfort for longer than that, give us a call.
. Trouble eating or feeling full quickly. Not surprisingly, abdomens that are bloated and/or uncomfortable make it harder for you to eat. Again, more than a week or two of feeling full quickly is worth exploring further.
. Urinary frequency. You may also find you have to pee often. Sometimes, women mistake this symptom for those of a UTI and try to self-cure it. Again, duration of symptoms is key. A true UTI should clear up with a matter of days, not weeks, so make an appointment if your urinary frequency continues.

Don’t neglect your body’s warning signs. They are its only means of communicating with you. Take the time to schedule an appointment if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms that persist for two weeks or more. Take action – not chances – with your health and well-being.

Dr. D’Abarno sees patients in Port Charlotte and North Port. To schedule your exam or to discuss any of your women’s health concerns, call 941-766-0400.

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