We are busy women. We don't always do what we should by going to our yearly appointments. Yes, those appointments -- the Pap test (no longer a smear) and for those over 40, the mammogram.
As a female under the age of 40, my focus is currently on having a Pap test and also on some wonderful news I recently heard from NBC News.
The doctors at Johns Hopkins University recently published a study in Science Translational Medicine, which looks at the possibility of catching uterine and ovarian cancer in its earlier stages via a Pap test.
You are probably wondering how this could be possible, because during a Pap test, the doctor or nurse uses a speculum to view the cervix. Viewing and obtaining tissue from the uterus and ovaries would require a more invasive procedure. Well, this new method tests the DNA of the cells in the cervix. The research shows that cancer cells can be present in the cervix as well, regardless if the cancer has spread.
"When we looked to see if cells were shed from these ovarian cancers and endometrial cancers into the cervix, we found we could detect 100 percent of the endometrial cancers and 40 percent of ovarian cancers," said Dr. Luis Diaz, Jr. of Johns Hopkins University.
Many of these they detected were still in stage 1, the most treatable or curable stage -- a stage these cancers are not often found in due to poor screening methods and vagueness of symptoms, especially in the early stages.
Now, being that it's in early stages, you're probably thinking the test is expensive and not worth the yearly cost. But according to researchers, the test would cost $100 and there's potential to mass-produce, which could potentially decrease the overall cost.
In the meantime, we should continue to educate not only ourselves, but others on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and endometrial (uterine) cancer.
First off, the OVARCOME foundation has a great, simple acronym that's easy to remember. They use "BEAT" so we can BEAT ovarian cancer. Key signs to watch out for are: Bloating that is persistent, Eating less and feeling fuller, Abdominal pain, Trouble with your bladder.
Another resource from The NIH also lets us know that there are many other vague symptoms, such as constipation, abnormal menstrual cycle, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, and weight gain or loss. It is also known that nulliparity or taking hormone replacement therapy can increase your risk.1 But did you know that there is some research that suggests that taking the birth control pill after age 40 can actually reduce the risk of ovarian, colon, uterine, and breast cancer?2
As for endometrial cancer, it seems birth control is a good preventative, particularly progestin therapy, which is present in IUDs. This is because it decreases the risk of hyperplasia, which, in turn, minimizes the cancer risk by decreasing chronic inflammation.3
The most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal bleeding, such as after menopause or in between menstrual cycles, and pain in the pelvic area and/or during intercourse. Because these symptoms are a bit more obvious compared to ovarian cancer, it is generally caught at an earlier stage.4
What are your thoughts on this test? Would you pay the additional fee for the chance at earlier detection?