My mother visited her gynecologist when she was in her late thirties after missing her period, after which she develop a pain inside her that was sudden and very sharp. After initial examination, some blood tests were run. At first, it was believed that she was pregnant or was having an ectopic pregnancy since the tests done on the blood showed that pregnancy hormone HCG was in very high levels. However, there was no pregnancy in the diagnosis. When an ultrasound was taken, it showed that rather than having a baby, there was a benign growth in one of the ovaries known as teratoma. When surgery was performed immediately, she was left with just one ovary that was ‘good’ which her gynecologist followed very closely. The only good thing is that she wasn’t diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Detecting ovarian cancer though ultrasound screening

My mum’s ‘ovarian tumor’ is something that I will always remember and I always share it with other doctors and my gynecologist who asks about my family hospital despite the fact that teratoma isn’t a cancer and even though it grows, it doesn’t spread. This history together with the fact that my family has breast cancer history has led me to go for transvaginal ultrasound at least one per year. This helps me ensure that my ovaries don’t have any growths. Even though no pain is associated with the test, a lot of time is consumed to get it done. There is vaginal insertion of a wand and ultrasound waves are penetrated to the pelvic tissues to ensure the radiologist sees your ovaries in a clear way. The good thing about a transvaginal ultrasound is that more accurate results are seen unlike in the external ultrasound. Finding ovarian cancer can be very tricky since the ovaries are found deep inside pelvis and seeing or feeling them is very difficult.

Detecting ovarian cancer through a blood test

Improving early detection of this cancer has been made possible thanks to a blood test whereby a cancer antigen 125 or protein known as CA-125 gets screened. Commonly, the protein is found on the ovary cancer cells. Researchers found that with regular screens of blood, yearly to be precise for the protein, it becomes possible to find ovarian cancers with a likelihood of 86%, much higher than with ultrasound. This is indeed a very valuable test for women diagnosed with a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there is going to be more than 21000 new ovarian cancer cases by 2015. Much worse statistics show that about 14000 women will die each year from ovarian cancer. As such, it is important that the disease is diagnosed during its early stage.