If there’s one word that instantly fills anyone with dread, it’s cancer. When anyone mentions the ‘C’ word, our instant reaction is to recoil with horror and imagine the worst case scenario.
Thankfully, the general knowledge of the more common types of cancer, such as cervical, testicular, breast and ovarian cancer is rising, with more and more people routinely checking themselves for any changes. Regular screening is also seen as common place these days, with the general opinion being the sooner a problem is spotted, the more chance you have of sorting it out.
Like most forms of cancer, if ovarian cancer is treated in the early stages, there is a 90% higher chance of getting this under control. However, as ovarian cancer is associated with symptoms such as persistent bloating, pain in the pelvis and lower stomach, and difficulty eating, it can easily be misdiagnosed and often isn’t detected until the advanced stages.
The risk to younger women
Although ovarian cancer generally affects post-menopausal women over 50, it’s easy to fall into a false sense of security that young women can’t get it. This cannot be further from the truth, that’s why it’s advisable to speak to your private GP to discuss the need for an early screening. Due to the nature of ovarian cancer, fertility can be affected. Having an early screening will at least give you options for future family planning, whether that means freezing your fertilised eggs or considering alternate means of raising a family.
Sometimes a cervical screening test (also known as a smear test) can be the first sign to raise a suspicion that ovarian cancer may be present. These regular tests are not available to women under the age of 25 on the NHS, so for regular tests before the age of 25, you would need to see a private GP to be checked for cell abnormalities. In some countries, screening of cervical cancer starts 2 years after sexual debut irrespective of your age.
The screening process
Ovarian cancer screening is a simple, non-invasive process which comes in the form of two separate blood tests. The CA 125 test detects the CA 125 protein in the body, which may indicate the presence of ovarian cancer. A second test, known as the HE4 isn’t available on the NHS, but when combined with the CA 125 this test will significantly raise the level of sensitivity of the detection of ovarian cancer. Contrary to common belief, ovarian cancer cannot be detected through a cervical screening test, this will simply highlight any abnormalities in the cervix, which could possibly lead to cervical cancer.
Speak to Pall Mall Medical about the screening options available to you, a simple consultation can make all the difference, not least to your own peace of mind.