Healthbeat 4: Ovarian cancer awareness and prevention

Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - No early detection test exists for ovarian cancer, but you can dramatically reduce your risk by being proactive.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and counselors are sharing a message about getting on the preventative track.

For two years, Genetic Counselor Jessie Poskochil has done a weekly telehealth day at the June E Nylen Cancer Center.

Ovarian cancer is often found in a more aggressive form when it’s finally detected.

Poskochil said, “Ovarian Cancer is going to be malignant cells in those ovarian tissues and that can be really hard to detect because we don’t have great screening for it. Those variants are really tucked into the body whereas our skin you can see if there is a change on it or breast cancer it’s more external facing.”

The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance says,” 20% of ovarian cancers are caused by a genetic mutation — it’s important to know the risk, as well as preventative options for those with a mutation. 70% of the most common and lethal ovarian cancers begin in the fallopian tubes.”

Poskochil added, “Particularly with ovarian we want to meet with all of those patients because there is a high chance it is going to be hereditary within all of our sessions, we gather their family history, so we see if there is anyone else in the family with cancer. We educate the patient on what genetic testing is, how is it going to be helpful for you and your family and then we have that discussion on questions, and what testing they would like to pursue.”

A family history of breast, colon, uterine/endometrial, or ovarian cancer increases your risk of ovarian cancer.

There are effective ways for those at average or high risk to prevent ovarian cancer. That involves genetic testing.

”For the patient, if they are undergoing treatment right now it can guide some of those treatment decisions, like if they’re eligible for certain therapies or surgeries or if this is preventative. Maybe they don’t have ovarian cancer, this is just to know what to do ahead of time,” Poskochil said. She continued, “Then we might talk about that risk-reducing overexcite prophylactic hysterectomy, or taking risk-reducing agents like birth control pills or chemo prevention to keep that risk low,” Poskochil said.

If this sounds like something that could impact you down the road, have the talk with your primary care provider first.

They can then later make the referral to the June E. Nylen Cancer Center.

Stay tuned for next month as we dive into the unique role of a genetic counselor.