This is an article I wrote for "Inside Tucson Business," a local publication. Follow the link to go directly to the story.
Pressures are mounting daily for women in business. With the shrinking economy and increasing costs, we can't afford to waste any of the precious resources at our disposal. Two of these resources are time and health.
For the past decade I have built my business and my life around helping women improve their lives and health through better fitness. In 2003 I became a Personal Fitness Trainer, and in 2006, I opened The Training Zone, A Personal Fitness Studio.
Recently, during an annual gynecological exam, my doctor found my uterus was enlarged. After a follow up appointment and sonogram she recommended the removal of my uterus and one ovary along with the partial removal of the other ovary. She ordered a blood test known as the CA-125 test.
The CA-125 results returned with a slightly abnormal level of 41. Because I didn't like the first doctor's recommendations, I sought a second opinion from Dr. Thomas Waliser who was recommended to me by my nurse practitioner, Sharon Campbell. I told Dr. Waliser about the CA-125 result and he explained that the CA-125 test is traditionally unreliable in pre-menopausal women. For that reason he does not order this test for them. After examination he recommended the removal of just one ovary.
Because the two opinions differed so greatly, I visited the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for a third opinion. They repeated the CA-125 test and this time the result was an elevated 271. The Mayo Clinic physician referred me to an oncologist. I did a little bit of research and felt the elevated result was most likely due to a cyst which had sent me to the emergency room four days earlier, and that a referral to an oncologist was not necessary.
I returned to Dr. Waliser for surgery. He removed just one ovary and verified that all else was fine. Multiple biopsies confirmed that I did not have cancer.
Researching and understanding exactly what the CA-125 test measures and how unreliable it is really opened my eyes. According to an article by the National Institute of Health -www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007217.htm:
"In a woman with known ovarian cancer, a rise in CA-125 usually means that the disease has progressed or recurred. A decrease in CA-125 usually means the disease is responding to treatment.
"In a woman who has NOT already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, an elevated CA-125 can mean a number of things. While it can indicate that she has ovarian cancer, it can also indicate other types of cancer, as well as several benign diseases such as endometriosis.
"When used in healthy women, an elevated CA-125 usually does NOT mean ovarian cancer is present. The vast majority of healthy women with an elevated CA-125 do not have ovarian cancer (or any other cancer for that matter). The ‘false positive' rate for this group of women is high.
"Any woman with an abnormal CA-125 test will need further tests, and sometimes invasive surgical procedures, to confirm the result. These additional tests all involve risks and anxiety.
"Therefore, the CA-125 should not be considered an effective general screening test for ovarian cancer. Studies are underway to determine whether it might be effective when combined with other blood tests or radiologic studies."
A true benefit of business ownership is to take what we learn in life and share it through our businesses. I am fortunate to make a living doing what I love and I am grateful to Dr. Waliser for giving me a quality of life.
I have been motivated to write this article because I am afraid women may be encouraged to have unnecessary surgery due to an inaccurate screening used on pre-menopausal women. Talk frankly with your doctor. Do your own research and get all of the facts. Don't be afraid to seek a second, and even a third, opinion. You will always be your own best advocate.