Hello everyone and welcome to fall! Time to get back to our routines and get settled in work and school mode. Summer is short and sweet in most parts of Canada, but I personally am getting to love the fall – with its vibrant colors, cooler mornings and crisp air. The month of September has a few important health awareness dates. In this issue we will talk about Ovarian Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Prostate PSA test screening significance.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – September 2018
Ovarian cancer has been called the Silent Killer because its presenting symptoms can be mistaken for other benign conditions such as the ones that affect the gastrointestinal system, or simply changes in a woman’s body as she ages. However, it is the fifth most common cancer affecting women. It is estimated that this year 2,800 Canadian women will be newly diagnosed with this disease.
It is very unfortunate but there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. That is why early detection is very difficult and the diagnosis is often delayed because the symptoms are considered nonspecific. Often times the symptoms are either ignored or attributed to other age-related problems like constipation, irritable bowel or indigestion. The majority of ovarian cancer diagnoses are made in stage 3 and 4, when it has spread to other parts of the body. According to the American Cancer Society, only 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. If it is found early, about 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
According to Ovarian Cancer Canada, the common symptoms include:
- Bloating – increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
- Eating – difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Pain – in pelvic or abdominal areas
- Urinary symptoms – urgency or frequency
Other symptoms may be present such as changes in bowel habits, extreme fatigue or unexplained weight loss. Just because you have those symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have ovarian cancer. You should seek the advice of your doctor, however, if these symptoms are new, persistent and frequent. Women should pay attention to their symptoms and seek professional advice.
Although neither of the below tests on its own can tell whether or not one has ovarian cancer, the three work together to identify a possibility. The only definite way to confirm the diagnosis is through a biopsy.
- Complete pelvic exam
- Transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound
- CA-125 blood test
If any of these tests suggest the presence of ovarian cancer your doctor may advise surgery to examine the cells and check for malignancy. Ensure that you are referred to a gynecologic oncologist for the surgery. Research has shown that when surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist instead of another physician, the patient outcomes are improved.
Risk factors and groups
The causes of ovarian cancer are unknown. The likelihood of developing the disease may be higher if a woman has one or more risk factors. One of the key risk factors is age. Most women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause, at age 55 or older, although patients in their 40s and 50s have also been diagnosed with the disease.
If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may also be at an increased risk. Talk to your doctor about genetic testing and other steps you may be able to take to monitor or reduce your ovarian cancer risk, such as preventive surgery.
Other risk factors include:
- Lynch syndrome
- Never being pregnant or giving birth
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
If you are suspecting something is not right with your body, please talk to your medical doctor. If you are being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, seeking a second opinion in diagnosis and treatment plan is always a good idea. Remember it is your right to seek a second opinion. Health Vantis works with one of the best Cancer treatment facilities in the US and we are always here to help.
September 21 Is World Alzheimer Awareness Day.
Do you know that it is possible to have Alzheimer’s in your 40-ies and 50-ies? It is estimated that in Canada approximately 16,000 people experience an early onset of dementia. Some of those people may still have children living at home, have full-time jobs and maybe caregivers to their own parents.
Dementia can happen for a number of reasons. Alzheimer’s disease is one of them. If you are wondering what is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, we have this fantastic video for you kindly provided by Trinity Brain Health. The disease is irreversible and it destroys brain cells causing deterioration with memory and thinking ability. For more videos about dementia click here.
Diagnosing young onset Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult. Doctors usually don’t consider the disease in younger people. Symptoms can be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different healthcare professionals. People who have early-onset Alzheimer’s may be in any stage of dementia – early stage, middle stage or late stage. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary.
The 10 warning signs of the disease are listed below and are taken from the Alzheimer Society Canada website:
- Memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities – forgetting things often or struggling to retain new information.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks – forgetting how to do something you’ve been doing your whole life, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed.
- Problems with language – forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit the context.
- Disorientation in time and space – not knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place.
- Impaired judgment – not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing light clothing on a cold day.
- Problems with abstract thinking – not understanding what numbers signify on a calculator, for example, or how they’re used.
- Misplacing things – putting things in strange places, like an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
- Changes in mood and behavior – exhibiting severe mood swings from being easy-going to quick-tempered.
- Changes in personality – behaving out of character such as feeling paranoid or threatened.
- Loss of initiative – losing interest in friends, family and favorite activities.
If you are experiencing memory problems:
- Have a comprehensive medical evaluation with a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease. Getting a diagnosis involves a medical exam and possibly cognitive tests, a neurological exam and/or brain imaging. Reach out to your provincial Alzheimer’s Society.
- Write down symptoms of memory loss or other cognitive difficulties to share with your healthcare professional.
- Keep in mind that there is no one test that confirms Alzheimer’s disease. A diagnosis is only made after a comprehensive medical evaluation
September Is Also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian men. Many older men have this disease without knowing it. It usually grows slowly and can often be completely removed or successfully managed when it is diagnosed. While a cancer diagnosis can be scary, prostate cancer has high survivor rates, especially when it is caught and treated early.
Routine screening has improved the diagnosis of prostate cancer in recent years. Men over the age of 50 should talk with their doctor about whether they should have testing for early detection of prostate cancer. Men with one or more risk factors should consult a doctor about whether to begin screenings earlier, before age 40. Known risk factors for prostate cancer are family history, race and a diet high in saturated fat and red meat.
The following tests may be used to help detect prostate cancer early:
- Direct Rectal Examination
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).
Although PSA test may not be perfect, Prostate Cancer Canada insists that it is the best indicator in clinical practice and an important red flag to show that something may be wrong. It recommends that men in their 40ies get a PSA test to establish their baseline.
So what is PSA and why is it used? Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein produced within the prostate gland and is secreted into seminal fluid. The PSA test is a simple blood test. It measures the level of PSA in the blood. An elevated level of PSA may be a sign of prostate cancer. However, a high reading of PSA may also indicate non-cancerous conditions such as inflammation and enlargement of the prostate.
No single normal level has been established. Historically, a level of 4.0 ng/mL or higher was used to justify a biopsy of the prostate (a sample of prostate tissue) to try and determine if a man has prostate cancer. However, this practice has been changing and other factors are being considered in the decision to perform a prostate biopsy.
Prostate cancer has been detected in men with levels less than 4.0 ng/mL. And many men with PSA levels higher than 4.0 ng/mL do not have prostate cancer. There is no PSA level below which the risk of cancer is zero. Two men with the same PSA level may have very different risks of prostate cancer depending on other risk factors.
Common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer are:
- Burning or pain during urination
- Difficulty urinating, or trouble starting and stopping while urinating
- More frequent urges to urinate at night
- Loss of bladder control
- Decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
- Blood in urine (hematuria)
If you or your loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms ensure you raise the question of prostate cancer possibility with your doctor.