Dear Ann Landers, I feel compelled to respond to the letter from "M.J. in Sarasota," who decided to have a hysterectomy to make absolutely certain she would never get ovarian cancer. She still needs to be careful.
I was diagnosed with fibroid tumors in 1988. Even though there was no family history of ovarian cancer, I decided not to take any chances and had a complete hysterectomy. Eight years later, I was shocked to discover I had Stage III ovarian cancer.
Many women do not realize that malignant cells in the ovaries can spread through the surrounding tissue. Even if the ovaries are removed, ovarian cancer can still develop elsewhere. It is important to continue watching for signs of the disease. I am enclosing a list of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and I hope you will print it for all the women in your reading audience. -- Shirley in Orlando, Fla.
Dear Shirley, Thank you for educating my readers today. According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, a national education and advocacy organization, ovarian cancers occur in one out of 55 women at any age. Most women are diagnosed when the chance for survival for five years is about 20 percent. Early detection improves survival rates. Symptoms are subtle at first but become more persistent and identifiable as time goes on.
Any woman who experiences the following symptoms for more than two or three weeks should see her doctor and ask for a combination pelvic/rectal exam, a CA-125 blood test and a transvaginal sonogram:
-- Bloating, a feeling of fullness or gas.
-- Frequent or urgent urination.
-- Nausea, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea.
-- Menstrual disorders or pain during intercourse.
-- Fatigue or backaches.
For more information on ovarian cancer, contact the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, P.O. Box 33107, Washington, D.C. 20033 (www.ovariancancer.org), or assess your risk at the Women's Cancer Network website (www.wcn.org). For a free brochure, call the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition at 1-888-OVARIAN (www.ovarian.org).