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What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

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One in 71 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and of the 21,880 women diagnosed last year, only 46% will survive beyond five years. Think about it. Five years. But, if diagnosed early, that rate increased to over 90%.  Unfortunately, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer so knowing your risks, and the symptoms will increase your chances of detecting ovarian cancer early.


  • What are some potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer?
    • Potential signs and symptoms include:
      • Bloating
      • Pelvic or abdominal pain
      • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
      • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect because symptoms can be vague and are often misdiagnosed as benign illnesses. Most of these symptoms can also be caused by problems other than cancer. When these symptoms are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to persist and are a change from normal -- for example, they happen more often or get worse. If you have symptoms that you can’t explain nearly every day for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor right away.


  • What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?
    • Age: Most ovarian cancers happen after menopause. Half of all these cancers are found in women over the age of 63.
    • Obesity: Very overweight (obese) women seem to have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
    • Having children: A woman who has not had children has a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
    • Estrogen therapy and hormone therapy: Some recent studies suggest women using estrogens after menopause have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
    • Family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer: Ovarian cancer can run in families. Your risk for ovarian cancer is higher if your mother, sister, or daughter has (or had) ovarian cancer. The risk gets higher the more relatives you have with ovarian cancer. Increased risk for ovarian cancer does not have to come from your mother’s side of the family - it can also come from your father’s side.


September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and the above risks and symptoms are provided by Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center. I spoke with some of their experts and you can hear our interview by clicking on the interview tab on this page. As always, you can learn more at


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