Ovarian Cancer Facts You Should Know:
Ovarian cancer forms in ovarian tissues. Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary ( epithelial carcinomas) or cancer that begins in egg cells (malignant germ cell tumors).
How often does Ovarian Cancer occur?:
It is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women in the United States and accounts for approximately 3 percent of all cancers in women. The rate of ovarian cancer has been dropping since the mid-1980s. It occurs more often in white women than women of other racial/ethnic groups.
Ovarian cancer has the highest death rate of all cancers of the female reproductive system. This is partly due to fewer early symptoms and lack of available ovarian cancer screening tests. As a result, ovarian cancer often is diagnosed at an later stage, after the cancer has spread beyond the ovary.
Risk factors include a family history of ovarian cancer, certain genetic mutations, and some hereditary conditions. Women with a known increased risk of ovarian cancer may want to consider surgery to remove the ovaries. Surgery and chemotherapy are used to treat ovarian cancer.
Approximately $5.1 billion is spent in the US each year on ovarian cancer treatment.
Who is at Risk?
Studies have found the following risk factors for ovarian cancer:
• Family history of cancer: Women who have a mother, daughter, or sister with ovarian cancer are at increased risk of the disease. Also, women with a family history of cancer of the breast, uterus, colon, or rectum may also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. If several women in a family have ovarian or breast cancer, especially at a young age, this is considered a strong family history. If you have a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you may wish to talk to a genetic counsellor and have genetic testing.
• Personal history of cancer: Women who have had cancer of the breast, uterus, colon, or rectum have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
• Age over 55: Most women are over age 55 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
• Never pregnant: Older women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
• Menopausal hormone therapy Some studies have suggested that women who take estrogen by itself (estrogen without progesterone) for 10 or more years may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will get ovarian cancer. Most women who have risk factors do not get ovarian cancer. On the other hand, women who do get the disease often have no known risk factors, except for growing older. Women who think they may be at risk of ovarian cancer should talk with their doctor.
These symptoms may indicate that Ovarian Cancer is present and growing:
• Pressure or pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs
• A swollen or bloated abdomen
• Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation, or diarrhea
• Feeling very tired all the time
These symptoms may occur but are less common:
• Shortness of breath
• Feeling the need to urinate often
• Unusual vaginal bleeding (heavy periods, or bleeding after menopause)
Most often these symptoms are not due to cancer, but only a doctor can tell for sure. Any woman with these symptoms should visit and tell her doctor if there is any concern.