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The scary truth about ovarian cancer

Recently I was at a Women’s Expo and got talking with a representative from Ovarian Cancer Canada. As someone with a history of ovarian cancer in my family, I was shocked by what she told me. A Pap test does NOT detect ovarian cancer. Like most, I figured as long as I went for my yearly check-up I was good and had nothing to worry about. It turns out this is not the case. Every year, approximately 2,600 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is also the most fatal gynecologic cancer, killing 1,750 Canadian women annually. Unfortunately, there is no effective screening test for early detection.

Ladies, it’s time to get informed! Here’s what you need to know.

What to look for: You should see your family doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms for longer than 3 weeks:

  • Swelling or bloating of the abdomen;
  • Pelvic discomfort or heaviness;
  • Back or abdominal pain;
  • Fatigue;
  • Gas, nausea, indigestion;
  • Change in bowel movements;
  • Emptying your bladder frequently;
  • Menstrual irregularities; or
  • Weight loss or weight gain.

I’m sure as you read through the above list, you had the same feelings as me. These symptoms would not necessarily send me scrambling to see my family doctor. Again, this is why ovarian cancer can be so tricky to detect.

The following may increase your risk of ovarian cancer.

  • History of breast, ovarian or colon cancer in the family;
  • Never having children;
  • Getting older (most common after age 50);
  • Never having used oral contraceptives.

Please don’t assume because you’re under 45, you’re “in the clear” – about 13% of cases effect women under 45.

Again, the Pap test DOES NOT detect ovarian cancer. Several tests may be required in order to make the diagnosis:

  • A pelvic exam;
  • A transvaginal ultrasound;
  • A CA-125 blood test.

Please pass this information along to the women in your life. Speak to your mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and co-workers. With the relatively vague and mild symptoms and high fatality rates we all need to be more aware.

For more information, please speak with your family doctor or check out the Ovarian Cancer Canada website:


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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