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Cancer Down There

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September is ovarian cancer awareness month

September is ovarian cancer awareness month. This disease occurs most frequently in women age 40 to 80 and affects nearly 2,500 Canadian women each year, reports Ovarian Cancer Canada ovariancancercanada.ca. It is the main cause of death from gynaecological cancers in Canadian women.

A definitive screening test for ovarian cancer is still in development, and until researchers come up with one, a woman's strongest defence against this illness is body awareness. Paying attention to what is normal in the body can help women distinguish between occasional discomfort and the following persistent, unusual symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • abdominal or pelvic discomfort
  • fatigue or difficulty breathing
  • vaginal bleeding
  • pain during intercourse
  • changes in bladder or bowel habits

If you notice any of these changes, always report them to your health care professional.
One day it may be possible to diagnose ovarian cancer by measuring CA-125, a protein normally found in blood. The CA-125 test is currently used to measure treatment response and to monitor recurrences in women with ovarian cancer. But because 20 percent of ovarian cancer patients do not show elevated CA-125 levels, measuring this protein is not as reliable as a pelvic exam and ultrasound when diagnosing ovarian cancer.

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