About Ovarian Cancer
The Facts Are:
Ovarian Cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancer diagnoses among women. Every year, more than 20,000 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Ovarian cancer is most frequently found in older women, with more than 50% of new cases impacting women over the age of 63.
Although ovarian cancer is relatively uncommon, it is extremely aggressive, and often fatal. Ovarian cancer ranks #5 in overall cancer deaths among women. Among cancers that affect the female reproductive system, none are more dangerous than ovarian cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that ovarian cancer will be responsible for 14,240 deaths in 2016.
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovaries are the female reproductive glands that produce a woman’s eggs, as well as a majority of the body’s supply of the hormones progesterone and estrogen.
When cells within the ovary begin to multiply and grow out of control, a growth known as a tumor can form. There are three different types of ovarian tumors. Each tumor affects a different group of cells found within the ovaries:
- Epithelial: This type of tumor is formed on the outer surface of the ovary. These are the most common form of ovarian tumor.
- Germ Cell: This type of tumor begins in the cells that make up a woman’s eggs, or ova.
- Stromal: These tumors form from the structural tissue that holds the ovaries together.
Not all tumors that form on the ovary are cancerous. In fact, a majority of tumors that form on the ovaries are benign. However, all ovarian tumors have the potential to be malignant. Malignant, or cancerous, ovarian tumors are extremely dangerous and can metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.
Signs & Symptoms:
Unfortunately, in many cases ovarian cancer is not detected until after it has spread to other parts of the pelvis or abdomen. Early-state ovarian cancer rarely results in any physical symptoms, and women may not realize that they are experiencing a serious threat to their health until after the cancer has spread beyond their ovaries. If ovarian cancer is not detected until this late stage, it is much more difficult to treat, and the rate of survival decreases dramatically.
In its more advanced stages, ovarian cancer can cause symptoms including:
- Bloating or swelling of the abdomen
- Pelvic and abdominal pain
- Trouble eating, or feeling full more quickly than normal
- Weight loss
- Constipation or changes in bowel habits
- Feeling the need to urinate frequently or urgently
Ovarian cancer is uncommonly dangerous because many of the above symptoms could easily be confused with other more benign conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or common constipation. The American Cancer Society recommends that if a women experiences any of the above symptoms more than 12 times in a month, she should contact her gynecologist immediately.
There are several factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. First and foremost, women between the ages of 50 and 60 should be acutely aware of their risks. Women of this age should visit their doctors for regular cancer screenings, and act quickly if they experience any of the above symptoms.
Other risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- Use of an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy
- Fertility treatments
- Other genetic factors
- Long term use of talcum powder on the genital area
Steps to Take
Receiving a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is a life-changing experience. Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, can cause feelings of being overwhelmed, angry, or even hopeless. However, it is crucial to remember that there have been amazing strides made in the field of ovarian cancer treatment in recent years. No matter how alone you may feel during this process, never give up – there are a great number of support groups and resources available that can help you through this difficult time.
For more information and resources about ovarian cancer, we encourage you to visit the links below:
- The Foundation for Women’s Cancer: view an extensive list of ovarian cancer support resources.
- The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance: enter your Zip Code to find a support group or partner near you.
- The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition: produces informative brochures and videos on ovarian cancer.
- The American Cancer Society: provides additional facts about ovarian cancer treatment options.
- The Mayo Clinic: additional medical information about ovarian cancer.