SAN ANTONIO — Ovarian cancer causes more deaths each year than any other gynecologic cancer in the United States. 

This year, nearly 22,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with the disease, which will also result in 14,000 deaths, experts say.

"The prognosis was not good for ovarian cancer. So I felt like, if that's your destiny, then I was okay with that decision," said Suzanne Castle. 

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She says that is how she felt when she was told she had stage 3B ovarian cancer. The registered nurse says telling her family was not easy. Castle told us, "I have two daughters and of course, it's been very difficult for my husband too because that's a heavy responsibility -- be a caregiver to someone with ovarian cancer."

Dr. Georgia McCann, a gynecologic oncologist at UT Health San Antonio's MD Anderson Cancer Center told us, "Unfortunately, about 70 to 80 percent of ovarian cancers are not caught early. The majority of women when they're diagnosed with ovarian cancer -- it is at stage three at that point."

Risk factors of ovarian cancer include being a middle-aged woman or older, having a close family member who has had ovarian cancer, being of an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background and having never given birth, or have had trouble getting pregnant. 

Dr. McCann added, "And all of those are symptoms can be associated with menopause alone. So, it's important for women to know that if they have persistent, vague symptoms such as that, then it may require further evaluation." Castle also said, "I wondered why my stomach was getting bigger and bigger. Oh, that's no big deal. I'm taking after my mother."

But she wasn't taking after her mother. 

She had a tumor the size of a soccer ball removed, and is about to start oral medication for chemotherapy. Castle says listen to your body and be aware of any changes. Castle told us, "Don't ignore them because your body will tell you something's wrong."

Both Castle and Dr. McCann say having a support system is a must, and people must never hesitate to ask for help.

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UT Health offers a way to be screened for ovarian cancer. Dr. McCann told us, "Here in South Texas, we now have implemented universal screening for ovarian cancer."

To find out if you have the BRCA mutation that increases your likelihood of contracting ovarian cancer, genetic counseling is needed. .

Dr. McCann said, "Genetic counseling involves submission of either a swab of the inside of the mouth, saliva or even a blood test. And what that's doing is it is screening to see whether or not a woman carries a genetic mutation, such as a BRCA mutation."

Dr. McCann said it is important information to know.

"One, so women with ovarian cancer, whom we know have that mutation, it opens up a lot of treatment options that may be curative. There are also a lot of things that women can do to prevent ovarian cancer. So specifically, there are surgeries that can be done once a woman reaches a certain age and she's done having children so we can do a surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes. If a woman is not ready to have a surgery, then we can do blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds to monitor the ovaries."

For more information about ovarian cancer call UT Health at 210-450-1000 or click here.

And as always, for more information on family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find more Wear The Gown stories here.

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