Ovarian and Prostate Cancers: What to Ask the Doctor at a Routine Visit

smiling female doctor listens to patient in office

September is both National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a good time to remember to ask your doctor about specific symptoms that could be linked to these cancers. Finding cancer early gives you a better chance of treating it successfully.

Ovarian Cancer:

Sometimes, bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating as much as you’re used to, and having to urinate more often are associated with ovarian cancer. But usually, women who have these symptoms do not have cancer. The doctor can help you figure out what might be causing these symptoms.

Ask the doctor about your risk for ovarian cancer. Women with a mother, sister, or daughter who has had ovarian cancer have a higher risk. So do women with a gene mutation called BRCA1 or BRCA2. Other factors include obesity, using fertility drugs for longer than 1 year, using estrogen replacement therapy after menopause, and having had breast cancer.

If you have any of these risk factors or symptoms, ask the doctor if you should get special testing to check for ovarian cancer. Women without symptoms or risk factors are not usually tested for ovarian cancer.

Prostate Cancer:

Blood in the urine, pain or difficulty urinating, and trouble having an erection can be symptoms of prostate cancer. But they can also be caused by something else that has nothing to do with cancer. If you have these symptoms, you will need to be tested to know what is causing them.

If you don’t have symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about whether screening for prostate cancer is right for you. If you’re African American or have family members with prostate cancer, you should have this discussion with your doctor when you’re 40 or 45. Other men should talk to their doctor beginning at age 50.

Ask the doctor to explain what testing can and can’t tell you, and what choices you will have to make after you get the results. This information can help you figure out whether you want to be tested.

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