PANAMA CITY- While great strides have been made to screen for breast, prostate, and colon cancer, there is still no good test for ovarian cancer. Because of that, ovarian cancer isn't usually diagnosed until the late stages of the disease, making the battle against it that much tougher. That's why a local woman is sharing her story, to raise awareness about the symptoms, so others can catch the disease earlier in the fight.
Late 2010 Anita Hood knew something was wrong. "I thought I was having gall bladder problems. I was feeling the bloating in my abdominal area, I was feeling pain after I ate, everything I'd ever heard of I thought maybe it's gall bladder so I went to see my gastroenterologist and he said Anita I don't think it's your gallbladder, we are going to run some tests and find out."
What they found was stage 4 ovarian cancer. "I was shocked to find out it was level 4. I had gone every year for my annual, I had had my pap smears done, I thought I was doing everything right. Come to find out there is no screening test for ovarian cancer," said Anita. It took a CA-125 test and exploratory surgery to find Anita's cancer. The CA-125 may not detect ovarian cancer until the later stages because the test is primarily used to monitor treatment.
Anita is now enduring her 4th round of chemo and hoping for a long remission, because currently there is no cure. "The doctors have told me you learn to live with it." Patients and doctors alike are clamoring for more research to develope a screening. "We would like to have a good screening test like a mammogram, something that you can do on a regular basis. Even a pelvic exam with a pap smear won't find it," said Dr. Syed Mahmood of Bay Oncology. "22,000 ladies are year are getting diagnosed, more than 15,000 die, said Anita. "And from my research those statistics haven't changed much in the last 50 years so more research is needed as well."
Clad in teal from head to toe to promote Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, Anita is passionate about making sure other women heed the symptoms. "The symptoms to look out for are bloating, pelvic pain, the experience of feeling full even though you've eaten a small amount. The other is the need to frequently and urgently urinate. Those are the 4 symptoms that you begin to look for, if you've got those symptoms and they last more than a couple of weeks I think it would be in your best interest to go see your doctor."
The age range for ovarian cancer is typically women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. While there is a long way to go, new drugs are helping patients live several years beyond their diagnosis.