Dr. Larson is board certified in hematology/medical oncology and offers a wealth of knowledge and support to any patient in her care.
May is National Women’s Health Month, featuring Women’s Checkup Day and World Ovarian Cancer Day. We spoke with Los Angeles Cancer Network (LACN) physician, Dr. Krisztina Larson to discuss women’s health related to cancer. Dr. Larson is board certified in hematology/medical oncology and offers a wealth of knowledge and support to any patient in her care.
Women’s Checkup Day – May 9th
Women need to be aware of a lot relating to our body. We bleed once a month for a whole week (that’s TWELVE weeks per year); we bear whole human beings and then we nurture them through survival with our body. Needless to say, our bodies are AMAZING, yet we do have to keep a lot in mind to ensure we are healthy. That is why we have a whole extra doctor – our OBGYNS – to see yearly and make sure our lady parts are functioning correctly.
We spoke with Dr. Larson to learn a little more about cancer in women. We are susceptible to numerous cancers. When compared to men, we are less likely to get most of the cancers we have in common, with the exception of breast. Yes, you read it correctly, men can get breast cancer too, but not nearly at the rates that women do. For cancers that are unique to us, such as ovarian (and related) cancers, cervical cancer, and uterine cancer, we need to be aware of risks. Our annual OBGYN appointment screens for signs of cervical cancer through a pap smear but does not screen for any others. A bi-annual mammogram is recommended after the age of 40-45 to screen for breast cancer – but it’s on you to perform self-examinations until then.
Women’s Health Week May 8th-14th 2022
Dr. Larson says one of the best ways to prevent cancer in women is to know your body. “Know what your breasts feel like!” said Dr. Larson. “Also, learn your family history if you don’t know it already.”
Dr. Larson continued, “Not just mom & dad, but find out about your parents' siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Grandma dying from colon cancer at 80 isn’t a huge risk factor, but an aunt dying at 30 from ovarian cancer is a big red flag. If someone died young mysteriously, probably a red flag. In older generations some prefer not to speak of cancer.”
As with any cancer, you can reduce your risk by limiting alcohol & smoking consumption and leading a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise routine and diet full of whole foods.
Dr. Larson’s rule of thumb when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet is to make sure your meal requires some time and effort to prepare.
“No alcohol, no smoking, moderate physical activity of least 30 minutes a day, daily drinking, fresher foods are always better. Eat a variety of foods in moderation. Put some effort into your meal preparation. If you do make the mashed potatoes, be reasonable with the butter and portion sizes. You can have dessert but not every day. Moderation is key.”
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is also something to talk to your primary care physician about, as it prevents HPV, the STI that is most linked to cancer. It prevents reproductive tract cancer, and head & neck cancers. Always speak with your doctor and voice your concerns, so they can give you the best options based on your scenario.
Red Flags to Look Out For:
The following are signs to always see a doctor immediately. Don’t ignore symptoms, show yourself self-care. It may not be cancer, but you deserve to feel healthy and to know what is going on in your body.
-Post menopausal bleeding
-Abnormal pap – don't wait a year to get the biopsy! HPV is the STI that’s mostly linked to cancer.
-A significant change in period flow (new heavy flow, prolonged bleeding, or suddenly not bleeding)
-Vaginal bleeding outside your period
-History of endometrial cancer (lining of uterus)
Ovarian Cancer – World Ovarian Cancer May 8th, 2022
Who’s the most common patient for ovarian cancer?
-Average age between 40s-60s.
How is it usually detected?
-There is no routine screening. Some people come with abdominal symptoms, bloating, pelvic pain, vague pelvic symptoms that come & go, etc. After a pelvic exam, a doctor may perform CA125 testing blood test or transvaginal ultrasound to detect ovarian cancer.
Why isn’t there routine screening?
The reason for not screening routinely is because it doesn’t make a difference in terms of overall survival. There is a US Preventative Services Task Force, that performs studies to determine which cancers should be routinely screened for. For ovarian cancer, they determined it was not a cancer that would benefit much from routine screening because of false-positive screening results, psychological results, mortality was not different based on screening. However, if you are at higher risk for ovarian cancer, you should be screened regularly. This includes prior history of ovarian cyst or mass, personal history, family history of ovarian cancer.
Is a cyst always a sign of ovarian cancer?
-Not always. Having one to a few cysts is normal, due to ovulation. But atypical cysts are risks and should be further evaluated.
Is removing the ovaries an option to get rid of cancer?
-It may be a part of the treatment.
Can you have children after going through ovarian cancer?
-Patients can do fertility preservation while they go through, but it depends on subtype of ovarian cancer, depends whether it will be safe to have that kind of cancer. Reproductive organs are often removed. More often than not, that’s the case. If the cancer is slow growing, doctors can perform fertility preserving surgery in selected cases.
Is talcum powder use a contributing factor to ovarian cancer
-It can pose a higher risk. Some studies show yes, some studies show no. Results are inconclusive. The safest bet is to not use talcum powder on your genital area.