Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ovarian cancer screening is critical in detecting tumors that don't show up on clinical exams, and increases chance of survival

Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear joined some of the state's female legislators to highlight the importance of screening for ovarian cancer, which can be done for free through the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center's ovarian cancer screening program.

Ovarian cancer is fifth among cancer killers of American women and accounts for more cancer-related deaths, causing more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective, but most women with ovarian cancer don't have symptoms of it until the disease progresses into a more advanced stage. As it progresses, survival rates drop sharply, making screening and early detection critical. Data from the screening program at UK shows that regular screening increases survival rates, says a UK news release.

"This preventative ovarian cancer screening is free, quick and confidential – an easy way for women to protect themselves from this life-threatening illness," Jane Beshear said. "This simple procedure is available to women in all parts of Kentucky, not just the Lexington area, and I encourage all who are at-risk for the disease to participate in the program."

Dr. John van Nagell, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Markey Cancer Center, said "While regular pelvic examinations are important and can detect many other abnormalities, including cervical cancer, they are not effective in detecting ovarian cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages."

Van Nagell started the screening program in 1987 to test the use of transvaginal sonography to detect ovarian tumors that are too small to be detected during an annual exam, says the release. Over the program's 26 year period, more than 241,000 free screening examinations have been provided to more than 41,000 Kentucky women, and 558 ovarian tumors and 86 malignancies have been detected.

Women from every county in the state have participated in this program, says the release. Screenings through the program are now being performed in Lexington, Elizabethtown, Somerset, Prestonsburg, Maysville, Paducah and Greenup County.

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to get the disease. About 90 percent of women who get it are older than 40, says the CDC.

The UK screening program is free and open to women age 50 or older, or women over the age of 25 who have a family history of ovarian cancer. For more information, call (859) 323-4687 or (800) 766-8279. Click here for more CDC information.

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