Letter: Why regular exams with a gynecologist are important


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Posted Online: April 24, 2014, 11:00 pm
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It is unfortunate and unacceptable that ovarian cancer is diagnosed so late in its course. In most cases the diagnosis is made in stage 3 and often in stage 3C. Survival is much less than in stage 1 or even 2 where long term survival and cure rates are much better.

There may be at least two explanations. The symptoms often point to a gastrointestinal or a urinary condition and most of the tests ordered, sometimes including colonoscopies, are aimed at ailments involving the digestive tract while the real culprit is ignored.

Another reason is that most women rely on their primary care physician or internist for their gynecological exams. They may be getting a pap smear with or without a pelvic exam. Family physicians do not go through the intensive training and experience of gynecologists. When a pelvic exam is performed it is easy to assume that they are feeling a uterus or hard colon content and miss an ovarian cancer.

It is more convenient and may involve less out of pocket expenses when deductibles have not been met for women to rely on their primary care physician only. A regular exam by a gynecologist is not carried out until a CT scan is ordered looking for something else.

I am aware of one situation when the scan was ordered before undergoing surgery for an umbilical hernia and lead to the diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer. The importance of also seeing a gynecologist for regular checkups and female issues cannot be overemphasized.

Julie E. Bingham RN,
clinical appeals nurse,
United Healthcare
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