Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

by | Sep 28, 2023

Is there a Mammogram for the ovaries?

Breast Cancer has received a lot of awareness, research dollars and support over the last decades and as a result we are seeing improved clinical outcomes for those affected with breast cancer.

Here are the current female breast cancer facts for the U.S. per National Cancer Institute:

There will be an estimated  297,790 new cases this year.  These breast cancer cases make up 15.2% of all new cancer cases in the U.S this year. There will be an estimated 43,170 breast cancer caused deaths this year in the U.S. totaling 7.1% of all U.S cancer deaths. 

The current five-year survival rate for breast cancer has dramatically improved to 90.8% during the years of 2013 to 2019. 

Early detection and improved treatments are the main reasons for this improvement in Breast Cancer outcomes.

The current imaging machine for screening for breast cancer is the 3D Digital mammogram.

During my 20 years of private practice , women have had four major concerns with mammogram screening 1) Radiation 2) False positives 3) Uncomfortable 4) Fear of discovery. 

 1) Fortunately, the mammogram is minimal radiation.  To be specific, an old or new mammogram is  .7 msv (millisieverts) of radiation.  Living at a mile high (5280 ft.) for a year is 7x’s or 4.9 msv of radiation.  We tell Coloradans, if you’re concerned with the radiation of a mammogram, you are going to have to move to San Diego or New Orleans.

 2) The old Mammogram came with too many false positives as it was 2D imaging of the breast tissue.  If you hold a piece of paper in front of your face, that’s 2D imaging. Now, turn that piece of paper 90 degrees and stack multiple pieces of paper on top of each other to create a 3D image.  A three dimensional model of the breast tissue is dramatically less likely to miss things or mistake things.

3) Unfortunately, the 3D Digital mammogram is the same discomfort for some women

4) Conventional healthcare does not prevent breast cancer, it early detects breast cancer which can result in just surgery, not chemo/radiation.  It’s best to ensure consistent 3D digital mammograms to avoid missing the chance to find something early.

Most women without family history of reproductive cancer should start their mammogram schedule at 40.  If there is family history of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer we recommend initial 3D digital mammogram 5-10 years earlier (30-35 years old).

Sooooooo….What about ovaries? 

Is there an Ovariogram?…..No, but there is transvaginal Ultrasounds  (U/S) also known as intravaginal Ultrasounds where an ultrasound wand is inserted vaginally and bounces sound waves (no radiation) to size, shape and evaluate the uterus and ovaries.

We highly recommend all women get an initial transvaginal U/S at 40 to get baseline sizing and those with family history of reproductive cancer start 5-10 years earlier (30-35 years old).  If there is nothing concerning, we suggest women redo transvaginal U/S every three years…and every 1-2 years if they have a family history of reproductive cancers (breast, uterine, ovarian).

Ovarian Cancer is not very common, but it is very lethal with a 50.8% five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer.  Unlike breast cancer that has a very celebrated, educated and well promoted screening, ovarian cancer does not.  Moreover, ovarian cancer can grow without much feeling as there is not much “real estate” to bump into in the pelvic cavity.  For many women, the first signs of ovarian cancer is simply diarrhea as the cancer finally effects the GI tract.

Here are the current ovarian cancer facts for the U.S. per National Cancer Institute:

There will be an estimated 19,710 new cases this year.  These breast cancer cases make up 1.0% of all new cancer cases in the U.S. this year. There will be an estimated 13,270 ovarian cancer caused deaths this year in the U.S. totaling 2.29% of all U.S. cancer deaths. 

One of the founding principles of Naturopathic Medicine is Prevention (“Preventare”). 

Transvaginal U/S are more a tool of early detection for ovarian cancer, but can prevent a lot of suffering from avoiding heavy duty treatments (chemo/radiation) that may or may not prevent premature death.  Talk to your Doctor about using the transvaginal U/S as you “ovariogram”

Dr Eric Dorninger

By: Dr. Eric Dorninger  |  Roots and Branches Integrative Health Care

Dr. Eric Dorninger ND, LAc is founder of Roots and Branches Integrative Healthcare a clinic dedicated to solving and resolving chronic illness and bringing quality with quantity to life for all.  His clinic (with Dr. Bjerke ND and Genevieve, Emily and Leana NP’s) serves broad spectrum women’s health concerns with the best of conventional, naturopathic and Traditional Chinese Medical model.  You can find Roots and Branches at drdorninger.com and Dr. Don instagram @drericdorninger and his Youtube Podcast “the vitality hour”

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