September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, as well as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. In light of these important observances, here’s a breakdown of common myths surrounding both illnesses.

Ovarian cancer myths:

Myth 1: Pap smears can detect ovarian cancer.
Pap smears detect other types of gynecological cancer, such as cervical cancer, but not ovarian. There are different ways to detect ovarian cancer, such as physical exams, imaging tests, blood tests, and sometimes surgery. In that same vein, know that HPV vaccines work to prevent cervical cancer, not ovarian.

Myth 2: If you don’t have a family history of ovarian cancer, you’re not at risk of developing it.
According to Promedica, only 10-15 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a biological family history of this disease. Don’t let your guard down just because you don’t have the history. Be aware of the symptoms and get yourself screened!

Hand holding a teal ribbon for ovarian cancer awareness

Myth 3: If you undergo a hysterectomy, there is no chance of getting ovarian cancer.
Unfortunately, even if you have a total hysterectomy, the removal of all internal female reproductive organs, there’s still a slight risk of getting the disease. Just be aware, and watch out for any possible symptoms.

Myth 4: Advanced ovarian cancer is untreatable.
While you shouldn’t underestimate the severity and seriousness of an ovarian cancer diagnosis, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. There is hope. With advancements in technology and cancer treatment, survival and remission from ovarian cancer is totally possible. Your chances of survival can often increase if  you see a gynecologic oncologist, and, if needed, have a gynecologic oncologist perform your surgery—in addition to chemotherapy.

Myth 5: The CA-125 blood test screens for ovarian cancer.
This test is not a diagnostic measure for ovarian cancer, but rather, a guideline and method of monitoring the treatment of ovarian cancer and its effectiveness. The CA-125 test is a blood test that tracks the increase of CA-125—a sugar-associated protein—the levels of which rise or fall depending on the effectiveness of ovarian cancer treatment.

Prostate cancer myths:

Myth 1: No symptoms = no cancer
Prostate cancer is described as one of the most “asymptomatic” serious diseases out there. Don’t let a lack of symptoms mislead you. It’s better to be proactive and safe than sorry, so visit your doctor for annual check-ups.

Myth 2: A high score on your PSA (prostate specific antigen) test means you have prostate cancer.
Not necessarily, as inflammation of the prostate can raise your score, and ultimately your results help your doctor decide if you need to pursue further testing for prostate cancer. Your doctor will monitor your PSA levels over time to see if they rise. Rising PSA scores can indicate a problem.

blue ribbon for prostate cancer ribbon with stethoscope

Myth 3: Prostate cancer only affects older men.
Prostate cancer can affect men of all ages, though it’s rare for men under the age of 40 to develop it.

Myth 4: Diagnosis of prostate cancer depends on genetic history.

One in every nine American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, regardless of biological family history—compared to one in eight women developing breast cancer. While a family history increases your risk, it’s not an end-all be-all determinant of a diagnosis. That said, a man whose brother or father had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop it.

If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s risk for either ovarian or prostate cancer, schedule an appointment with your physician. For more information on possible symptoms you might experience, visit: National Prostate Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.