Ovarian cancer affects almost 22,000 U.S. women each year, and over 14,000 die from this tumor type annually according to the National Cancer Institute. It’s the fifth-leading malignant cause of death among U.S. women, and the overall five-year survival rate remains low – just under 45 percent.
What raises a woman’s chance of getting ovarian cancer?
Despite progress being made in research, there is no certain way to be sure if you will get ovarian cancer. Most women get it without being at high risk. However, the following factors may increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer:
- Being middle-aged or older.
- Having close family members (such as your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother) on either your mother’s or your father’s side who have had ovarian cancer.
- Having had breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer
- Having an Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish background.
- Having never given birth or having had trouble getting pregnant.
- Having endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body).
Ovarian cancer cases declined in last 30 years
In the past few decades, reported cases of ovarian cancer has declined for reasons that are unclear. Between 1975 and 2011, the number of ovarian cancer diagnoses decreased from 16.3 to 12.1 per 100,000 women. This means there’s been an overall drop in this disease rate by over 25 percent in a 36-year period in the USA. Some studies suggest that the rise of birth control may have been a factor in its decline.
The median age of ovarian cancer victims is 63 years, but almost 1/3 of cases reported are women under age 55 years – including many who are genetically pre-disposed, such as by carrying a BRCA mutation, or otherwise having a family history of the disease. Apart from genetics and age, risk factors, such as toxin exposure, have not been established for this malignancy type.
The World Health Organization’s main cancer department, the IARC, reports an yearly occurrence of 238,000 ovarian cancer cases and almost 152,000 deaths globally.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer
The possible signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer are as follows:
- Back pain
- Pain or pressure in the abdominal or pelvic area(s)
- Vaginal bleeding (particularly if you are past menopause) or abnormal vaginal discharge
- Bloating, which is when the area below your stomach swells or feels full
- Feeling full quickly while eating
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or having to pass urine very badly or very often
Pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. If you have vaginal bleeding that is abnormal for you, see one of our doctors right away or walk in to our GYN Emergent Care Center. If you have any of the other signs for two weeks or longer, see one of our doctors. It’s possible that these symptoms could be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see a doctor. The key to successful treatment of ovarian cancer by finding and treating it early.
Currently, there is no established screening test for diagnosing ovarian cancer. It is possible this is one of the reasons why ovarian cancer is discovered later on in the course of the disease; however, if you have symptoms of ovarian cancer, our doctors can perform a physical exam to look for signs of ovarian cancer. These signs include an enlarged ovary (found during a well woman exam) and signs of fluid in the abdominal region, called ascites. If there is reason to believe you have ovarian cancer based on your symptoms and/or physical exam, our doctors will immediately order some tests to check further.
You may also be interested in our blog about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Complete Women Care Team