Ovarian cancer is the second most prevalent gynecological cancer in the United States. Being known as the "silent killer," it is vital for women to acknowledge the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Dr. Scott Jordan, a gynecologic oncologist with the Broward Health Physician Group, urges women to be vigilant and take note of any potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
"Women may only experience symptoms that they think are not severe enough to seek medical attention, such as bloating, fullness, abdominal pain and an increased need to urinate," Dr. Jordan said. "Early detection saves lives, so we have to listen to our bodies."
Dr. Jordan's patient, Maria Grajcer, lost her appetite for two months, but it never occurred to her that it was serious, let alone that ovarian cancer was a possibility.
"I thought I had COVID-19, but after my primary care doctor ran some tests, it was revealed that I had cancer," Grajcer said. "It's important not to delay doctor visits. When you feel bad listen to your body."
In 2023, almost 20,000 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer. A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is roughly one in 78. It most frequently develops after menopause, from age 63 years and older.
The 81-year-old's journey with ovarian cancer began with a referral to Dr. Jordan, who confirmed that she was stage 3. Despite the daunting news, Grajcer remained determined to fight the disease and underwent five rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumors.
"It was a challenging experience," Grajcer said. "With the right attitude and medical team, this diagnosis is beatable." The Peruvian native, was then taken into surgery to remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes, appendix, and a part of her stomach where the cancer had spread. After the successful procedure, Grajcer continued with four more rounds of chemotherapy.
"I was expecting therapy to be really difficult, but I didn't have any symptoms or discomfort at all," Grajcer added. "Dr. Jordan and the staff at Broward Health took excellent care of me throughout my cancer journey. Today, I am cancer-free thanks to the support of these wonderful caregivers."
Grajcer says she has always been diligent about taking care of herself. "I walk an hour every day and I choose to always remain positive in life, but it wasn't until I was diagnosed with cancer that I decided I needed to cut sugar out of my diet. I love sugar and Peruvian sweets, but ovarian cancer and sugar don't mix well."
The relationship between sugar and cancer is complex and often a misunderstood topic. According to research published in the National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average person in the U.S. currently consumes significantly more added sugar in their diet than the American Cancer Society's and the American Heart Association's daily recommendation.
"While there is no direct evidence that sugar consumption directly causes cancer, there are several indirect ways in which sugar may be related to cancer risk and progression," Dr. Jordan said.
There are several factors that may increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer, including:
- Family members who have had ovarian cancer
- Genetic anomalies such as BRCA1, BRCA2, or Lynch syndrome
- Previous breast, uterine or colon cancer diagnosis
- Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background
- Never having given birth or had trouble conceiving