Cancer sucks. The number of people who are touched by cancer is terrifying, it is rare to find someone who hasn’t had friends or family attacked by cancer if they’ve avoided it themselves. Sometimes, as with my bladder cancer, it’s not that bad- for me I get a rather uncomfortable exam regularly, and sometimes get a small tumor or two removed, no big deal. That makes me lucky, few who face cancer get to shrug it off as a mere annoyance.
Since I’ve recently learned a lot more about ovarian cancer than I ever expected to know, I’d like to share a few things with everyone. Remember, I’m not a medical professional, these are my observations and ideas formed over the two and a half years of my late wife’s struggle with clear cell ovarian cancer.
First, routine tests and doctor visits are unlikely to detect it early.
Second, it’s insidious- many women develop ovarian cancer around the time of menopause, and many of the symptoms of the cancer are also expected conditions that accompany menopause.
There is a blood test which looks for a marker, CA 125, which may help detect ovarian cancer but the test is far from perfect. Many people have suggested it should be a regular test, others think it may lead to a false sense of security. Gilda Radner talked about the test in her autobiography before we lost her to ovarian cancer. Here’s my take- and keep in mind that I’m not a doctor of anything and this isn’t medical advice- I think that CA 125 screening and the symptoms of ovarian cancer are things women should be aware of. I think that routine CA 125 screening probably makes sense for women with a family history of cancer, maybe for a broader population- but only if the test is considered a weak indicator, and is done as part of comprehensive medical care (a low reading does not mean there’s no cancer). If you have a healthy relationship with your doctor it should be part of a conversation, as with most tests. I don’t think much about my prostate, but I do think about symptoms of prostate problems every time my doctor sends me off for a PSA test. Awareness of symptoms, thinking about them honestly, and having real conversations with your doctors is key to minimizing Bad Things.
Note: I was going to prefix this with a note saying this is another personal post with nothing to do with InfoSec, then I realized I’m talking about using weak indicators as component in a comprehensive detection plan, and that sounds pretty familiar.
I don’t want to watch any more people die of cancer, and neither do you. But we will, so let’s try to spread the word and minimize the suffering.
Finally, I am not a doctor, psychologist, or anyone else who can provide real help- but if you or a loved one are facing ovarian cancer and want someone to talk to, yell at, or commiserate with- reach out to me. There’s email info in the upper right corner of the page.