According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women and nearly 20,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease in 2022.

In light of these alarming statistics and to educate women in our community about this silent and often deadly disease, Weiss Memorial Hospital hosted an important health seminar about ovarian cancer Sept. 13.

workshop participants

Seminar attendees were encouraged to ask questions and complete pre- and post- tests about ovarian cancer during the interactive women’s health event.

Patricia Boatwright, M.D., director for Gynecological Surgery and medical director for the Women’s Health Center at Weiss, was the featured presenter at the women’s health event.

Dr. Boatwright is a prominent gynecologist in Chicago, recognized not only as an experienced clinician and surgeon, but also as an educator of both patients and medical residents alike.

During her presentation Dr. Boatwright urged women to be proactive about their health because ovarian cancer often has no symptoms or is misdiagnosed as another health condition.

“It’s important for women to pay attention to their bodies and discuss any new symptoms with their doctor because there still are no real screenings for ovarian cancer like you see for breast cancer or cervical cancer,” said Dr. Boatwright.

In addition to educating women about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, Dr. Boatwright discussed risk factors. She emphasized the importance of a physician examination and imaging to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are paramount for improving outcomes.

“We want to identify ovarian cancer in its early stages. With a stage 1 diagnosis, survival rate is 90 percent,” stressed Dr. Boatwright.

Dr. Boatwright shared these important take-aways about ovarian cancer:

  • There is not a good screening test for ovarian cancer. The clinician must rely on the history and physical examination.
  • Having a child, taking the birth control pills (combination of estrogen and progesterone), breast feeding, all decrease the incidence of ovarian cancer. Review with your physician the BRCA gene, genetic predisposition for ovarian cancer.
  • Average age for menopause is 48 to 51, in the midwestern states closer to 51. As you get older the ovaries get smaller, atretic, no longer ovulating. Most ovarian cancers are in women greater than 50 years of age.
  • There are tumor markers, (ca125) that aid in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Imaging studies, the vaginal pelvic ultrasound, the CT scan, and the MRI also may assist in the diagnosis.
  • Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage, with a low 5-year survival rate. The goal is to diagnose this disease at an earlier stage, stage 1, which has a survival rate of 80 to 90 percent at 5 years.
  • Symptoms may include: a vague abdominal discomfort to frank abdominal pain with or without an appetite; increase in the abdominal girth and increase in urinary frequency; there may be abnormal uterine bleeding, premenopausal, perimenopausal, or postmenopausal; fatigue.

The Women’s Health Center at Weiss takes a comprehensive, hands-on approach to health and wellness, empowering women to take an active role in their medical care. The center’s gynecologists and breast specialists place special emphasis on patient education and often partner with Weiss’ Oncology department and Senior Center to provide educational opportunities for the community.

Women’s health education opportunities continue this fall with lectures on breast cancer planned for October. Weiss patients and community members are encouraged to attend these events to learn more about the disease, which is the most common cancer for women in the U.S.

Throughout October, patients and visitors also can receive helpful cancer resources at an informational table hosted by Weiss staff and volunteers.