The 411 on Ovarian Cancer

Information on Ovarian CancerSeptember is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and groups left and right are trying to raise awareness on the disease that accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Here’s what you need to know about it.

The Basics

Ovarian Cancer is a type of cancer that grows on the ovaries, a part of the female reproductive system. As with other types of cancer, ovarian cancer has the possibility to metastasize and spread to other parts of the body.

The ACS estimates that there are about 22,280 new cases of the disease in the country in this year. It causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer, as an estimated 14,240 deaths are expected to occur this year because of the disease.

The Symptoms

As with most cancers, early stages of ovarian cancer do not usually display obvious symptoms. Some women who have had the disease say that the common symptoms they felt were:

  • Frequent, persistent bloating;

  • Difficulty in eating, such as feeling full quickly;

  • Persistent pain in the abdomen or pelvis area;

  • Urinary problems, such as needing to urinate more frequently than usual.

Unfortunately, these symptoms are common among most women, particularly if they are ovulating or having menstrual problems. To determine if they are more than the usual aches from menstrual or digestive issues, these symptoms start suddenly and occur consistently, almost as if the pain doesn’t really go away.

On the other hand, ACS states that among the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer would be the abdominal swelling, “which is caused by the accumulation of fluid.” In some cases, the cancer can also trigger abnormal vaginal bleeding.

The Risk Factors

Ovarian cancer is one of those types of cancer that has a genetic predisposition. That being said, women who may have inherited mutations for BRCA1 or BRCA2, among others, are at an increased risk of the disease. To determine if you may be at risk, see if your family has a history of breast or ovarian cancer, and be tested for it. Early intervention, such as by preventive surgery, can significantly reduce the risk of the disease.

Other conditions that can trigger ovarian cancer include Lynch syndrome and pelvic inflammatory disease. In some women, the use of menopausal hormone therapy can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. On the other hand, the long-term use of oral contraceptives can reduce the risk.

The Survival Rates

Ovarian cancer amounts to 5% of cancer deaths attributed to gynecologic cancer. According to the ACS, women younger than the age of 65 are twice as likely to survive in comparison with those who are older than the age of 65.

The group expounds, “Overall, the 5- and 10-year relative survival rates for ovarian cancer patients are 46% and 35%, respectively.” This indicates that those who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer should not lose hope, as the statistics indicate that this type of cancer can be conquered, particularly if the tumors are completely removed before they metastasize to other parts of the body.

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