- One of the most difficult cancers to detect.
- By the time symptoms appear, ovarian cancer is often in an advanced stage and most patients usually do not live long after diagnosis.
- Fifth leading cause of cancer death in women
- Accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but leading cause of death from cancer of the female reproductive system.
- American Cancer Society estimates that about 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. annually.
- Nearly 14,000 women die annually of ovarian cancer
- Good news – incidence of ovarian cancer and death rate have fallen in recent years
- Research on ovarian cancer has been making strides
- Risk factors:
- Being older
- Having a family history of ovarian cancer
- Taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- Using fertility drugs
- Having increased blood levels of cancer antigen 125
- Being obese
- Having certain hereditary conditions (such as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, also called Lynch Syndrome)
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
» Fatigue or a persistent lack of energy
» Upset stomach, heartburn (persistent indigestion), gas, or nausea
» Back pain
» Pain during intercourse
» Constipation, unexplained changes in bowel habits, or diarrhea
» Menstrual changes
» Unexplained weight loss or gain
See your doctor if symptoms are new and persist for more than two weeks
- Make notes about specific symptoms, including the intensity and frequency so you can report them accurately to your doctor.
- Try to state as clearly as you can any other changes in body functions, from sleep and bowel habits to other changes such as headaches.
- Mention lifestyle habits, even things you may not be proud of, such as smoking. Never hold back information, no matter how trivial you think it may be.
- Pelvic Exam: age 18 and older
- Transvaginal Sonography: for women at high risk, or for those with an abnormal pelvic exam.
- CA-125 Test: This blood test determines if the level of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells, has increased in the blood of a woman at high risk for ovarian cancer, or a woman with an abnormal pelvic examination.
- Note: A Pap test DOES NOT detect ovarian cancer. Screening for cervical cancer.
- About 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. When ovarian cancer is found early at a localized stage, about 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
Can I lower my Risk for Ovarian Cancer?
Although there is no known way to completely prevent ovarian cancer, research has shown that there are some things that can reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease. They include:
- Oral Contraception: Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, especially among women who use them for several years. In studies, compared with women who never used oral contraceptives, those who used oral contraceptives for three years or more had a 30 to 50 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding and Pregnancy: Giving birth to one or more children, particularly delivering the first before age 25, and breastfeeding, may decrease a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Tubal Ligation: This is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are tied to prevent pregnancy. This procedure reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Hysterectomy: A hysterectomy has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. A woman should not have a hysterectomy exclusively to avoid the risk of ovarian cancer, but if one is being performed for valid medical reasons, she should talk to her doctor about having her ovaries removed at the same time.
- Prophylactic Oophorectomy: Oophorectomy is the surgical removal of one or both ovaries. A woman should discuss this procedure with her doctor to determine her individual risk for the disease and the benefits of prophylactic surgery.
- Healthy diet and exercise: According to the American Cancer Society, eating right, being active, and maintaining a healthy weight are important ways to reduce the risk of cancer, and other diseases.