Thursday, September 14, 2023

CMO Message: Ovarian Health

Screenings for breast and cervical cancer often take center stage in women’s preventive health, but there needs to be greater awareness of two life-changing conditions that affect the ovaries: ovarian cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Like other cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are key to beating ovarian cancer. However, unlike breast and cervical cancer, there is no general screening for ovarian cancer for women who don’t have symptoms or known genetic risk factors. Therefore, catching ovarian cancer early hinges entirely on noticing symptoms and informing your healthcare provider of any cancer that runs in your family. To further complicate matters, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be easily misattributed to other conditions and ignored for too long. Those symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge; discomfort in your pelvis, abdomen, or back; bloating or feeling full too quickly; and change in urination or bowel movements. If you have any of these symptoms or a personal or family history of cancer, talk to your provider so you understand why you are feeling that way and whether you might need additional tests.

PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects nearly 1 in 8 women in the US and is one of the most common causes of infertility. Many women discover they have PCOS when they are having trouble getting pregnant but the majority go undiagnosed. Even if you aren’t planning for pregnancy, PCOS can still have a big health impact by causing irregular or absent periods, excessive hair on the face or body, abdominal weight gain, and hair thinning. PCOS also increases a woman’s risk of diabetes, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, heart disease, and endometrial cancer. While there is no cure for PCOS, lifestyle changes and medications can help reduce the symptoms.

Don’t assume that dealing with difficult periods or changes in your weight or hair are just a normal part of being a woman. You know your body better than anyone else and putting off talking to your doctor about how you feel could put your health at risk. If you would like assistance connecting with a healthcare provider that specializes in women’s health, don’t hesitate to reach out to Member Services and we’ll make sure you get the care you need right away.


  • Rosemary Ku, MD/MBA/MPA