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New Guidelines Should Improve Ovarian Cancer Detection
Date:10/28/2007

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Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer among American women, not including skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated two-thirds of women with ovarian cancer are 55 or older.

"It is a disease that is detected in stage 3 and above, and that is unacceptable," said Sherry Salway Black, executive director of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and a survivor of the disease. "Our mortality figures are unacceptable."

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be subtle and hard to assess, because they often mimic common digestive and gastrointestinal disorders. They include persistent swelling, bloating, pressure or pain in the abdomen, gastrointestinal upset, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and the frequent or urgent need to urinate.

Because these symptoms are so common, women should be careful not to assume the worst, Duska said.

"The goal of this is not to make everyone think they have ovarian cancer," she said. "If women have these symptoms, and they persist over time, they should have them investigated. Everyone with bloating does not have ovarian cancer."

Typically, two or more symptoms occur simultaneously and increase in severity over time, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

The screening test developed late last year involves an extensive checklist of symptoms and their frequency. It picked up early stage ovarian cancer 56.7 percent of the time, and late stage ovarian cancer 80 percent of the time. The test also produced "false-positive" findings 10 percent to 13 percent of the time.

The test searches for many of the symptoms agreed upon by cancer experts as indicative of ovarian cancer.

"When women go to their doctors and have had some of these symptoms, and they are new and have persisted for two or more weeks, perhaps a doctor now would be willing to perform some pretty simple tests to rule out ovarian cancer," Langrid
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