How You Can Conquer Fear and Get Answers After a Pelvic Mass Diagnosis

Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Healing & Natural Remedies, Health with 0 Comments

By Dr. Marra S. Francis.

You tried to ignore it, to wait it out, and to explain it away. But the feeling you have that something is wrong inside your body is dominating your every thought and causing your stress to spike. Finally, you accept that it’s time to see a doctor, but you’re paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all. What if it’s cancer? What if you need surgery? What if you waited too long?

It’s completely natural to fear the unknown path before you, but don’t let that fear shut you down. Instead, educate yourself on your health condition and treatment options. Arm yourself with information so you can go into your doctor’s appointment with a thorough list of questions, a clear understanding of possible next steps, and a sense of hope for a healthy future.

A Checklist for Your Health Journey

There is both comfort and power in understanding what’s happening to your body and knowing how to discuss your condition with your doctor. That’s why it’s so important for you to do your homework on pelvic masses and be prepared for whatever path is next on your health journey.

The first thing to understand about pelvic masses is that not all of them are harmful. In fact, many can be linked to hormonal changes or genetic predisposition. But because pelvic masses can be indicative of more serious health conditions — such as ovarian cancer — it’s vital to have them properly examined, diagnosed, and treated as soon as possible.

To prepare for the consultation with your doctor and ensure that you’re getting the best care for your unique health situation, you must:

1. Advocate for your health. 

The days of being too busy to take care of yourself are over. No more ignoring strange symptoms or skipping routine physical exams. It’s time to get serious about your health by paying attention to your body, speaking up about your concerns, and making an appointment with your gynecologist.

Even though new guidelines typically require a Pap test or vaginal exam only every three years, you should still consult with your gynecologist annually. Those appointments are the perfect opportunity to bring up anything odd, embarrassing, or worrisome you’ve noticed about your body. They also give you and your doctor a chance to discuss your risk of developing gynecological cancers and whether you might benefit from more regular physical exams or proactive genetic testing.

If you ever feel like your concerns aren’t taken seriously enough, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion.

2. Prepare your list of questions.

Your situation may be scary and stressful, but you can control those feelings by being more proactive about the care you’re receiving. Do your homework on pelvic masses before your appointment. Then, compile a list of questions to ask your doctor during your consultation. And most importantly, ask them! By preparing ahead of time, you’ll be able to remain calm and focused when you’re with your doctor, ensuring you’ll get the answers you seek.

Your questions for your doctor should be based on your unique situation, but here are a few ideas to get your list started:

  • Can you provide a full description of my pelvic mass? Is it malignant or benign?
  • How likely is it that my mass will grow? Am I at risk for developing health complications or other masses in the future?
  • What’s your treatment plan? What tests will be performed?
  • Will I need surgery? If so, what will that procedure entail?
  • Is complete removal of my pelvic mass necessary and/or recommended? Why or why not?
  • Do you have experience diagnosing and treating this type of pelvic mass? Should my case be referred to a gynecologic oncologist?
  • How should I prepare before my surgery? What can I expect during recovery?
  • What patient support services are available to me through the hospital or community?

3. Investigate the tests you may encounter.

Once a pelvic mass is suspected or confirmed through a physical exam, your physician will order a round of follow-up tests to learn more about the mass and determine the best course of treatment.

Doctors use ultrasound imaging as the initial evaluation of a pelvic mass. A CT scan may be ordered for a more detailed imaging of the entire abdomen and pelvis. Blood tests are typically ordered to monitor for key substances the mass could be releasing into your bloodstream. And a surgery will be scheduled if your doctor decides to remove the mass.

Though your physician won’t directly ask for your input on follow-up tests, you have every right to voice your opinion on the tests that are performed.

For example, physicians have traditionally used a diagnostic test called CA-125 to screen pelvic mass patients for ovarian cancer. But now, a more effective, Food and Drug Administration-cleared test called OVA1 is available. OVA1 measures five biomarkers in the blood to detect the likelihood of ovarian cancer with more accuracy than other standard screening methods. These earlier, more accurate diagnoses can translate to patients getting specialized care in a timelier manner and having higher survival rates.

Because OVA1 costs more than the standard CA-125 test, many gynecologists still aren’t using it to screen pelvic mass patients. But if you want OVA1 to be a part of your follow-up testing, simply ask your doctor to include it.

Discovering a pelvic mass can be a frightening experience, but it’s never one that should be ignored. Take charge of your health by doing your homework on pelvic masses, knowing your options for testing and treatment, and seeing your gynecologist right away.

Dr. Marra S. Francis is a practicing OB-GYN. She joined the Vermillion team in 2015 as a key opinion leader, and in November 2016, she assumed the role of chief medical officer. Dr. Francis is dedicated to educating physicians and women so no one has to suffer the fate of terminal cancer that could have been prevented by ordering the correct diagnostic tests.

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