Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How often should I be screened for ovarian cancer?"
I am 40 and get a pap smear every few years. Should I be screened for ovarian cancer more often?
At this time, we do not have any formal way in which women are screened for ovarian cancer. The pap smear that you get every few years is a screening tool that we use for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus. Screening for abnormal cells through the pap smears allows us to catch cervical cancer well before it becomes a problem. Unfortunately, we do not have the same type of tool for ovarian cancer. There is no screening test that is routinely done to look for it, because there is not test that we can do that can reliably find the cancer at an earlier stage than it normally presents. We do however perform pelvic ultrasounds whenever a women reports pain or discomfort in the ovarian area. Sometimes (although very rarely), ovarian cancer is found in this way. In addition, your doctor feels for any abnormalities when he or she does the yearly pelvic exam. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your OBGYN or primary care physician, whoever you use for your feminine health. He or she can listen to your concerns about ovarian cancer and you can discuss the reasons why we don't do any formal screening each year with the exception of the routine pelvic exam. I hope that answer helped.
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