Learn the subtle signs of a dangerously silent disease

Teal signifies support for those affected by ovarian cancer. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, join us in promoting awareness of this potentially devastating disease.
Teal signifies support for those affected by ovarian cancer. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, join us in promoting awareness of this potentially devastating disease.

Dr. Robert Wool

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Though considered rare among all cancers, ovarian cancer is the deadliest of gynecological malignancies—due, in large part, to its notorious silence. During the month of September, we join the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and others nationwide in promoting awareness around this potentially devastating disease.

Because early signs of ovarian cancer, if present at all, often go unnoticed or are attributed to less serious conditions, diagnosis typically occurs at advanced, less treatable stages. For this reason, staying attuned to your body and recognizing when something isn’t right is the key to earlier diagnosis and, ultimately, effective treatment.

Most cases of ovarian cancer are seen in women over age 55, but it can develop at any age. It sometimes presents with common gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion, bloating, pain, bowel changes or feeling full quickly. Other possible symptoms include urinary urgency (feeling of having to go) or frequency, back pain, pain during sex, period changes and extreme fatigue. Although ovarian cancer is an unlikely cause, never dismiss these problems, especially if they are new or unusual for you, get worse or don’t go away. Make an appointment with your ob/gyn as soon as possible.

Just as important as paying attention to your body’s signals is having regular gynecological exams, or “well woman” checkups. These allow your provider to get an overall picture of your health, including new concerns or recent changes. Unlike some other abdominal or pelvic cancers, ovarian masses themselves are difficult or impossible to feel on regular examination until they are quite large. This makes good communication critical for determining whether certain tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound, may be warranted.

If you’re due for a regular checkup or have any concerns about your gynecological health, call us for an appointment today. You know your body best. Be sure to listen to it closely—this month and always.

Create a checkup checklist for your next appointment


Make a list of things you want to discuss during your appointment so you don’t forget anything.
Make a list of things you want to discuss during your appointment so you don’t forget anything.

Dr. Jacqueline Kates

May 15 is National Women’s Checkup Day, which serves as an important reminder for women who are often taking care of children, parents and/or partners, that they also need to make time to care for themselves. Annual checkups can play a significant role in your overall health, especially because health care has become more personalized over the past few years.

For example, recommendations about routine screenings have changed. New guidelines take into account women’s health and family histories when determining when screenings such as annual mammograms and PAP smears should start and how frequently they should be repeated.

However, even if annual Pap smears aren’t recommended for you, you will still benefit from an annual checkup. There are many sexual, reproductive and gynecological health issues that are important to address.

Bringing a list of questions and concerns to the appointment can help you ensure you are covering all your health bases. Matters you may want to add to your list include your:

  • Menstrual cycle, including how regular it is, symptoms and their severity, and any changes or issues you have noticed.
  • Risks for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and need for screening. It’s possible to have an STI and not have symptoms. Testing is the best way to screen and diagnose.
  • Birth control and family planning questions. We can help you choose the most appropriate birth option based on your health and lifestyle, and can also provide guidance about becoming pregnant when you are ready.
  • Cancer risk factors and screening recommendations, as well as instructions for how to perform a breast self-exam.
  • Other gynecological issues, such as frequent yeast or urinary tract infections, painful sexual activity or symptoms like itching or burning.

We want you to feel comfortable discussing all of your health issues or questions with us. There’s nothing you can ask us that we haven’t been asked before. Our goal is to provide the best possible care, and to empower you to play an active role in your health.

Are you due for a checkup? Call us for an appointment today.


Prevention and early detection of cervical cancer is possible with vaccines and vigilance

Dr. Lydia Lormand

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers with appropriate screening. That’s why awareness is so important.

The two most important things that women can do to prevent cervical cancer are to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination series and to have regular Pap smears and HPV screening. The main cause of cervical cancer is HPV infection; however, because not all women received the vaccines and because the vaccine doesn’t protect against every type of HPV, regular screening is also essential.

There are several FDA-approved vaccinations for the prevention of HPV-caused cervical and other cancers, which should ideally be administered before the patient is sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends that 11- and 12-year-olds receive two doses at least 6 months apart. The vaccines have been found to provide up to 100% protection against two types of HPV, and up to 97% for the other five types.

Regular Pap smears and HPV screening help us detect precancerous changes in the cervix that allow us to treat the infection before cancer develops or to treat it in its earliest stages.

Depending on your risk factors, as well as your prior Pap smear results, we will discuss how often you should have Pap smears. Even if you do not need a Pap smear every year, we still recommend yearly pelvic exams as another form of screening.

HPV infection is very common, but in most cases, the infection clears itself. When it doesn’t clear, or if it becomes chronic, it can lead to certain cancers, including cervical cancer. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • smoking
  • a weakened immune system
  • certain sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia
  • having a male sexual partner who has had multiple sexual partners
  • a personal history of dysplasia of the cervix, vagina or vulva
  • early age (under 18 years old) at which you first had sex

If you have questions about the HPV vaccine, or need to schedule your Pap smear and HPV screening, call us for an appointment.