Ovarian cancer: The myths & facts of screenings

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2022

In the United States, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer, as well as the fifth leading cause of cancer death. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected because the symptoms resemble common conditions that women can experience. It is typically caught at an advanced stage.

Cancer screenings are used to find cancer at an early stage in hopes that it is easier to treat. There are many myths surrounding ovarian cancer and how it is detected. The biggest myth is that there is a routine screening available.

Currently, there is no standard or routine screening for ovarian cancer. There are tests that can help detect the disease including a pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound and serum tumor markers. Tumor markers are substances that are created in the body by cancer, or in response to the presence of cancer.

Though the U.S. Prevention Services Task Force currently maintains that there is no recommended routine screening for ovarian cancer, some groups including the American Cancer Society advocate for possible screenings for women with a family history. Currently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends evaluation in the case of signs or symptoms being present. In general, ovarian cancer screening is not recommended for the general population without increased risk or symptoms.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms, fatigue, upset stomach, heartburn, gas, nausea, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipations, unexplained changes in bowel habits, diarrhea and unexplained weight loss or gain.

It is important to know your family medical history to assess your risk. Up to 20% of ovarian cancer cases may be hereditary. Increased risks consist of a family history of breast, ovarian, pancreatic, uterine or colon cancer. Genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2 as well as mutation associated with Lynch Syndrome are also considered hereditary risk factors.

We can identify women who are at highest risk and carry mutations that vastly increase the risk of ovarian cancer by having them answer a few simple questions about their personal and family history. Genetic mutations can be detected by a blood or saliva sample. Once those individuals are identified, we can prevent ovarian cancer with risk-reducing surgeries and/or medications.

The best approach is to be proactive with your health: speak to your doctor if you feel you are at risk for developing ovarian cancer, or if you notice any sudden changes in your health that mirror the common symptoms outlined above.


Dr. Diana Farge specializes in women’s services, gynecology, obstetrics, family birthing services, and maternity care at Ochsner Health Center – River Parishes in LaPlace. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Farge at Ochsner Health Center – River Parishes (502 Rue de Sante, LaPlace), please call 985-652-3500. Schedule an appointment online by visiting www.ochsner.org.