Ovarian Cancer Quiz—True or False?
1. Ovarian cancer can be detected by a Pap test.
2. Ovarian cancer is usually detected at already advanced stages.
3. Most people who develop ovarian cancer have a family history of ovarian cancer.
4. Birth control pills reduce the risk for developing ovarian cancer.
5. The gene for hereditary ovarian cancer may be passed from father to daughter.
6. For the general population, CA-125 is an effective screening test for ovarian cancer.
7. Most women with ovarian cancer have symptoms months before diagnosis.
8. Some women who develop breast cancer may be at increased risk for developing ovarian cancer and vice versa.
9. Exercise, healthy diet, and weight control are preventive measures for many cancers.
10. Having one’s ovaries removed eliminates the chance of developing ovarian cancer.
How did you do? Check your answers below.
1. Ovarian cancer can be detected by a Pap test. False
No consistently reliable, accurate screening test to detect ovarian cancer exists. The Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer. The following tests are available and should be used:
• Annual vaginal exam for women age 18 and above and annual rectovaginal exam for women age 35 and above. (Physician inserts fingers in the rectum and vagina simultaneously to feel for abnormal swelling and to detect tenderness.)
• Transvaginal sonography for women, especially those at high risk. (An ultrasound performed with a small instrument placed in the vagina.)
• Blood test to determine if the level of a tumor marker called CA-125 has increased in the blood for women at high risk. Its role in postmenopausal women is superior to that in premenopausal women. (This test is not definitive because some non-cancerous diseases of the ovaries also increase the CA-125 levels, and some ovarian cancers may not produce enough CA-125 levels to cause a positive test.)
2. Ovarian cancer is usually detected at already advanced stages. True.
Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of women with the common epithelial ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced in stage – i.e., has spread to the upper abdomen (stage III) or beyond (stage IV). The 5-year survival rate for these women is as low as 29 percent, whereas the 5-year survival rate for stage I disease patients is over 90 percent and for stage II disease patients approaches 70 percent.
3. Most people who develop ovarian cancer have a family history of ovarian cancer. False.
Although many women have a family history of ovarian and/or breast cancer, only about 5-10% of ovarian cancers are thought to be the result of inherited cancer susceptibility genes. A family history of ovarian and/or breast cancer may or may not indicate that one has inherited an increased likelihood of developing cancer. Most cases of ovarian cancer are sporadic, meaning they occur in women who do not have a family history of ovarian cancer. Taking a detailed, three-generation family history, or pedigree, is an essential element in the assessment of a woman’s chances of developing ovarian and other cancers.
4. Birth control pills reduce the risk for developing ovarian cancer. True.
Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer especially among women who use them for several years. Compared with women who never used oral contraceptive, those who used oral contraceptives for 3 years or more have about a 30%-50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.
5. The gene for hereditary ovarian cancer may be passed from father to daughter. True.
To date, two main susceptibility genes for breast and ovarian cancer have been identified: BRCA1 and BRCA2. Everyone carries two copies of each of these genes. If a woman inherits an alteration, or mutation, in one of her BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes from either of her parents, her chances of developing ovarian and breast cancer are significantly higher than that of the general population. Siblings and children of an individual known to carry a BRCA mutation have a 50% chance of carrying the same mutation. In a family with a known BRCA mutation, any person who is shown NOT to carry the mutation has the risk of developing cancer equal to that of the average person his/her age. It is also important to remember that both men AND women carry BRCA mutations, although medically there are different implications.
6. For the general population, CA-125 is an effective screening test for ovarian cancer. True.
The CA-125 blood test is used to measure the level of the protein CA-125. Elevated levels of CA-125 are often in higher-than-normal amounts in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. Overall, more than 80 percent of women with advanced ovarian cancer will have an elevated CA-125 level (greater than 35 u/ml), yet the test is not useful in detecting early stage disease (approximately 50% accurate). Unfortunately CA-125 is even less reliable for detecting cancer in pre-menopausal women since it is frequently elevated by non-cancerous conditions such as pregnancy, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, liver disease, and benign ovarian cysts. Most gynecologic oncologists employ CA-125 for surveillance of ovarian cancer after the diagnosis has been surgically confirmed since it is a sensitive indicator of persistent or recurrent disease.
7. Most women with ovarian cancer have symptoms months before diagnosis. True.
While the symptoms of ovarian cancer (particularly in the early stages) are often not acute or intense, they are not silent. These are some of the potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer: Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort; vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion; frequency and/or urgency of urination in the absence of an infection; unexplained weight gain or weight loss; pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or feeling of fullness; ongoing unusual fatigue; unexplained changes in bowel habits.
8. Some women who develop breast cancer may be at increased risk for developing ovarian cancer and vice versa. True.
Ovarian cancer, like all cancers, occurs due to a combination of genetic (inherited) and environmental (non-inherited) factors. A woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer is often related to her personal and family history of cancer. Certain genes may also increase risk, including BRCA1 and BRCA2, which also increase breast cancer risk and the chances that a woman will be affected by either cancer at a younger age. Patients with a personal history of breast cancer, or a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, may have an elevated risk. A strong family history of uterine, colon, or other gastrointestinal cancers may indicate the presence of a syndrome known as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), which confers a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer.
9. Exercise, healthy diet, and weight control are preventive measures for many cancers. True.
According to the American Cancer Society, eating right, being active, and maintaining a healthy weight are important ways to reduce your risk of cancer as well as other diseases. For the American Cancer Society’s healthy living recommendations, please visit the cancer.org website.
10. Having one’s ovaries removed eliminates the chance of developing ovarian cancer. False.
The removal of one’s ovaries eliminates the risk for ovarian cancer, but not the risk for a less common cancer called Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma. Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma is closely rated to epithelial ovarian cancer (most common type). It develops in cells from the peritoneum (abdominal lining) and looks the same under a microscope. It is similar in symptoms, spread and treatment.