How To Be A Pushy Patient

When women complain of the common ovarian cancer symptoms, some doctors fail to follow up aggressively with the seek-and-find tactics that ultimately find the cancer.  Women are told that it is menopause, irritable bowel syndrome, or stress. Younger women are told that they are “too young” for this cancer. If your doctor is not taking your ovarian cancer concerns seriously, find one who does. When you meet with the doctor, say something like this:

Doc, I have some symptoms that are consistent with ovarian cancer. How can we aggressively check for that? 

Tell me about CA-125 testing.

CA-125 stand for Cancer Antigen-125, a protein found in most ovarian cancer cells.  It is detected with a simple blood test.  Unfortunately, about half of early stage cancer patients will not show an elevated CA-125.  About 20 percent of women in late stage do not show an elevated CA-125 reading. Therefore the CA-125 blood test is not an accurate indicator of ovarian cancer, but it is helpful when viewed with other indicators.

Tell me about transvaginal ultrasounds

A transvaginal ultrasound allows doctors to use sound waves to “look” in the body and see abnormalities. Similar to the exterior wand used to view babies in utero, a wand is placed inside the vagina. The black and white images look like those baby ultrasounds that we are used to seeing.  It does not hurt and only takes a few minutes. An ultrasound has its limitations. It cannot see bones or gas, so there could be air pockets obstructing the view.  Also, women can develop ovarian cysts and a doctor may not be able to tell a harmless cyst from malignant cancer if a mass is sighted.

Tell me about HE-4 testing

HE4 is another possible biomarker that can be screened for in a blood test. This is new test touted as a tool to measure recurrent disease as opposed to a first time cancer.  However, doctors have studied the test to use it with the CA-125 in trying to improve the accuracy of diagnosis. You should talk to your doctor about whether this test is available.

Tell me about genetic testing

Genetic testing looks for known genetic mutations that make you more likely to dvelop certain forms of cancer.   Your doctor should ask you for your family history of cancer.  If that is not done, think about another doctor.  If there is cancer, especially breast or ovarian cancer, in your family tree, you may have a mutation, and that may impact your decision to participate in a clinical trial geared towards people with hereditary cancer.  This may also impact how often and how you check your breasts for breast cancer.

Who should I see for a second opinion?

Certain groups, like Jewish women of Eastern European desent, are at an increased risk for having these genetic mutations. Knowing whether you have this mutation may also be critical for informing other members of your family so they can make life-saving decisions before they get cancer.

It is easy to see how women don’t get diagnosed or get misdiagnosed. Women experience these symptoms now and again just as part of being a woman. So listen to your bodies carefully, and err on the side of caution. It would be great to nag and nag your doctor, only to find out that you do not have cancer.

Now let’s spread the word. Send this site to the women you care about. Facebook it. Link it to your website. Post your CancerDancer video and join the army of informed women. Your daughters will thank you.

Copyright 2012 by CancerDancer