Ovarian Cancer – Things You Need To Know

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, so it’s worth taking a minute to learn more about this disease, its risk factors, and early detection.

In 2018, there will be approximately 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed and 14,070 ovarian cancer deaths in the United States. – American Cancer Society

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer starts when cells in a woman’s ovaries or far end of the fallopian tubes begin to grow out of control. 1 in 78 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime.

Who is at risk?

According to the American Cancer Society, the strongest risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. A first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with ovarian cancer increases your risk by 50%. A first degree relative with breast cancer increases your risk by 10%.

Ovarian cancer is more common in older women. In fact, about half of those diagnosed are over the age of 63. Luckily, the rate of diagnosis is on the decline: overall incidence has declined by 29% since 1985.

Early warning signs

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the “silent killer” because many of the symptoms are non-specific and are related to a variety of other health issues.

Only 15 percent of all ovarian cancers are detected at an early easier-to-treat stage, before the cancer spreads outside the ovary. American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society lists the most common warning signs as:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency

Early detection

Unfortunately, only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found early. Currently, the way it is most commonly detected is through a pelvic exam. It is recommended for women age 18 and older to have an annual pelvic exam, in which your physician will check for an enlarged ovary.

Additionally, two screening tests are available, especially for women with a higher risk or an abnormal pelvic exam.

  1. Transvaginal Sonography – This is an ultrasound performed with a small instrument placed in the vagina. It can help determine if there is a mass in the ovary, but not whether the mass is cancerous or not.
  2. CA-125 Test – This is a blood test to measure a woman’s level of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells.

New and better screening tests are being researched. If you or a loved one have questions about ovarian cancer, please contact your primary care physician.