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Difficulty Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

(Dr. Brian McDonough) Dr. Brian McDonough
Dr. Brian McDonough has been medical editor at KYW Newsradio for more...
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By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - There are many misconceptions about ovarian cancer. The first issue is one of lack of understanding: many women think they don’t have to worry about ovarian cancer because they’ve had a normal pap test. But the pap test is not an early detection test for ovarian cancer. The pap screens for malignant and pre-cancerous cells in the cervix, not the ovary.

The other problem is a bigger issue and more problematic. Scientists have yet to find a test that can pick up most early cases. In fact, nearly three out of four ovarian cancers aren’t diagnosed until they have spread beyond the ovaries. That makes the disease the fourth leading cancer killer of all us women.

Symptoms are usually vague, like stomach bloating and fatigue. They can be confused with other common problems, and they often go ignored.