I can imagine the stress of dealing with your mother's news and caring for her while she fought ovarian cancer and then the tragedy of losing her. I'm terribly sorry for your loss. Some people may be amazed that a woman can be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January and be gone by May. It's awful, but cancer of the ovaries is said to be the most difficult of the cancers to detect and there are usually no symptoms until the cancer is in its advanced stages. Usually an oopherectomy (removal of the ovaries) is
performed and followed by radiation.
It isn't surprising that you would be experiencing severe hot flashes, which are often exacerbated by the type of stress you've been under. It's also not uncommon for one to skip one or two or three periods or even for them to
stop due to the emotional stress of losing one's mother. The fact that you were already in perimenopause doesn't help the situation at all. You may need more than vitamin E and natural progesterone cream to treat your menopausal symptoms. "Also, it seems the more meno symtoms I have, the closer they mimic the warning signs for ovarian cancer. Real Scary! Any advice?"
Don't jump to any conclusions about your perimenopausal symptoms and having ovarian cancer. Yes, it's probably very scary because you just watched your
mother suffer from it, but that doesn't mean you have it as well. The symptoms are often difficult to determine because they're so often like menstrual symptoms and those associated with intestinal problems.
Below is an excerpt from an article I found at www.webmd.com --
What Is Ovarian Cancer
It might be helpful if you read the entire article. Print it out and read it so you'll know what questions to ask your doctor and what to look for yourself. Remember, too, that although information can be very helpful, it can also cause overload. Don't start worrying yourself sick that you have ovarian cancer because you've just lost your mother to it. Be advised of the risks, but keep in your mind that the stress of worrying over something happening (that may never happen) doesn't help.
Screening and Early Detection Tests for Ovarian Cancer
Up to 95% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive longer than 5 years if their cancers are treated before they have spread beyond the ovaries. Unfortunately, only about 25% of ovarian cancer cases are able to be diagnosed at such early stages. There are no screening tests for ovarian cancer that are as effective as mammography is for early detection of breast cancer. At this time, routine pelvic exams are a reasonable precaution,
althoughthis is not a perfect screening method due to its low sensitivity. A mass felt on pelvic exam may require further evaluation by ultrasound and surgery to make a definitive diagnosis.
Genetic Screening. It is now possible to test for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but a positive result raises difficult questions since there is no definitive treatment available. The presence of a mutation in either of these genes does not predict with absolute certainty that either breast cancer or ovarian cancer will occur. Undergoing preventive surgical removal of the ovaries also does not completely eliminate the risk, since cells innearby regions may become cancerous.Experts believe that only women in very high risk families (those rare families that have several affected members with ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or both, especially occurring at a young age) should even consider
screening for the genes and only after extensive counseling. Women in other risk groups should understand that test results are useful at this time only for research purposes.
Other Tests. Noninvasive tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test for the protein CA-125, are available to help detect ovarian cancer and to help determine whether diagnostic surgery is needed. Even when used together, however, they still are unable to detect many ovarian cancers.
At this time, however, they are the only tests available for women in high risk groups, and their regular use for screening purposes is reasonable (see below for details). Ongoing research is underway to find better tests that will detect this cancer in early stages.
Annual Gynecologic Check-Up
Every woman should have a regular annual examination with her physician that includes a bimanual rectovaginal pelvic examination. During this exam, the physician inserts a finger into the vagina and another into the rectum. This enables the physician to assess the size of the ovaries as well as the contour and mobility of the uterus and to feel for masses and growths. Early ovarian cancer, however, rarely produces changes that are detectable during this examination. As part of the examination, the physician will also perform a Pap smear, which is specifically designed to detect cervical cancer but, in very rare instances, may reveal abnormal ovarian cells during lab evaluation. For women in high-risk groups consideration of transvaginal ultrasound and CA-125 testing every 6 months to a year is reasonable.
Standard Tests to Evaluate the Ovary
Trans vaginal Ultrasound. Ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic tool that is used to evaluate tumors and masses discovered during the rectovaginal exam. A probe is placed in the vagina that emits sound waves (ultrasound), which bounce off tissues, organs, and masses in the pelvic cavity. These echoes are collected and converted into a picture of the area called a sonogram. The ultrasound probe may also be placed on abdominal walls above the ovaries(transabdominal ultrasound), but it does not provide as clear a picture of the ovaries. Healthy tissue, fluid-filled cysts, and solid tumors produce different sound waves. Unfortunately, ultrasound does not provide enough specific information to reliably determine which abnormal masses are malignant and which are usually benign. Studies have reported that in premenopausal women whose blood tests for the protein CA-125 are normal, small cysts that are"simple" (fluid-filled without an associated mass) are usually noncancerous.
Premenopausal women who have a simple ovarian cyst are sometimes given oral contraceptives and observed for a few months to see if the cyst goes away. Postmenopausal women with small simple cysts and normal CA-125 levels
may also be observed if they have no other risk factors or symptoms of ovarian cancer. In both groups of women, sonograms should be performed regularly to check for growth. In contrast, a "complex" cyst (one that shows
a mass or other abnormalities) is often surgically removed, even if it is very small. Inone study, about 6% of cysts that showed abnormalities in their walls or solid areas turned out to be malignant.
Other Imaging Techniques in the Evaluation of Suspected Ovarian Cancer. Other imaging techniques include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and abdominal x-rays. Computed tomography records x-ray
absorption rates of tissue and bone. This data is converted into clear images on a screen. CT scans are useful to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, abdominal organs, abdominal fluid, and the liver.
MRI creates cross-sectional images of the pelvis and abdominal organs which are assembled into three-dimensional images. The value of these tests in the preoperative assessment of patients with possible ovarian cancer is
uncertain, however. Most patients do not require them prior to undergoing a definitive surgical procedure.
CA-125 Blood Test. If ovarian cancer is strongly suspected or if it is diagnosed, oncologists will usually obtain a blood test for CA-125, a protein that is secreted by ovarian cancer cells and is elevated in over 80% of patients with ovarian cancer. In general, a normal CA-125 level is less than 35 U/mL (microns per milliliter). What constitutes normal in specific individuals, however, varies widely depending on the age and menstrual statusof a woman. Some reports indicate that 35 is the upper cut-off for normal levels only for postmenopausal women who have abnormal vaginal bleeding, while for postmenopausal women without vaginal bleeding, the upper normal limit should be only 20 U/mL. In another study of postmenopausal women, those with levels of at least 30 U/mL had a significantly increased risk for developing ovarian cancer within five years compared to the general population; therisk dropped considerably with levels under 30. In premenopausal women, on the other hand, normal CA125 levels increase to as
high as 62 U/mL during menstruation and are below 32 only around the time of ovulation. A number of conditions can affect CA-125 levels, including endometriosis, fibroids, noncancerous ovarian cysts, pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, liver diseases, and congestive heart failure.
The protein is also secreted by othertumors, such as breast, colon, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Even worse, in approximately half of women with early ovarian cancer, CA-125 levels are not elevated at all. Therefore the CA-125
test is primarily used as a marker after a woman has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is not useful as a screening test.
An exploratory surgical procedure called laparotomy is generally required for the definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer. During this procedure, cysts or other suspicious areas must be removed and biopsied (tested for cancer). Laparotomy requires general anesthesia and employs standard abdominal
surgical techniques to make a vertical, midline incision from the pubic bone to the navel. Such an incision ensures careful evaluation of the entire abdominal area. After the incision is made, the surgeon assesses the fluid and cells in the abdominal cavity. If the lesion is cancerous, the surgeon continues with the a process called surgical staging to ascertain how far the malignant tumor has spread and to remove the ovaries and any cancerous tissue.
I hope this has been of some help to you.
Power Surge Founder
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