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Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death due to cancer in women in the United States. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other gynecological cancer. In 2005, almost 20,000 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and almost 15,000 died from the disease. What an alarming statistic! As a result of these rates, the Center for Disease Control has an ongoing project to raise awareness in doctors of ovarian cancer screening and testing practices.

Unfortunately for Ann Seneriches and her family, these efforts came too late. Despite six ultrasounds during her pregnancy that revealed a large mass in Ms. Seneriches’ right ovary, none of the obstetricians she saw referred her to an oncologist and none performed surgery to explore the mass. No follow up was ordered for after the delivery either. Six months later when Ms. Seneriches went to the emergency room complaining of a severely distended abdomen, she was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. She died two months later leaving behind her husband and newborn son.

Thankfully a Los Angeles jury agreed that Ms. Seneriches’ doctors were negligent in failing to timely diagnose and properly treat, failing to perform surgery, failing to refer her to an oncologist for further evaluation and simply failing to evaluate the mass.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include pressure or fullness in the pelvis, bloating, abdominal swelling or increase in abdominal size, abdominal bleeding, pain during intercourse, low back pain, and changes in bowel or bladder patterns that persist or worsen. Women having these symptoms for more than a few weeks should consult their doctor. And if you are not getting relief from the prescribed treatment, go back for a follow-up visit. If the doctor doesn’t take your symptoms seriously, particularly if you have a family history of cancer, go to someone else for a second opinion.

The negligence of these doctors led to the worst case scenario for Ann Seneriches and her family. I cannot imagine the heartbreak that they are going through. I applaud the efforts of the CDC to spread the word to doctors about ovarian cancer, as it is quite evident that more education is needed in this regard.

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