Genetic Counseling, Testing, Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

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Genetic Counseling and Testing

The Society of Gynecologic Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend that any woman diagnosed with ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer—regardless of age or family history—receive genetic counseling and be offered genetic testing. Knowledge of a hereditary genetic mutation associated with increased risk of cancer can help guide treatment decisions. Pre- and post-test counseling is essential to help you understand genetic testing options and results, and provide you with information to share with other family members. A genetic counselor or other medical professional knowledgeable in cancer genetics can provide testing and counseling. Genetic testing for epithelial ovarian cancer patients is considered “medically necessary” and is covered by most health insurance.

Signs and Symptoms

Ovarian cancer symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal body functioning. The frequency and number of symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

What is CA-125?

Ovarian cancer cells produce a protein called CA-125. Doctors look at levels of this protein to monitor patients after a diagnosis has been confirmed or during treatment to see if the cancer is responding. The levels usually go down if treatment is working. CA-125 levels are not useful as a method for screening healthy women because CA-125 is associated with diseases or conditions other than ovarian cancer. Changes in the CA-125 level in the tissue of women without ovarian cancer can lead to false positives and potentially unnecessary risky surgeries.