Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, but it accounts for only about 3% of all cancer in women. Each year, approximately 20,000 women in the United States get ovarian cancer. Many times, the diagnosis is made late into the cancer progression due to the silent and vague symptoms that may be present. Let's look at some risk factors and symptoms that have been associated with ovarian cancer.
The following factors have been shown to increase a woman's risk of getting cancer of the ovary:
- Age older than 55 years
- Family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus)
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Certain changes (mutations) of BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Never having children
If you have any of the following symptoms, and they do not go away, are frequent, or get worse over time, you should contact your health care provider:
- Bloating or an increase in abdominal size
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
A pelvic exam and lab tests can sometimes lead to detection of a problem with the ovaries. Currently, there is no good diagnostic test specific to ovarian cancer. An ultrasound and other tests may also help detect abnormalities, but a biopsy is the only way to confirm diagnosis.
Treatment will depend on the stage of the disease. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective. Surgery is usually needed to remove the cancerous tissue and chemotherapy may also be needed. Ovarian cancer is serious. Please, see your health care provider if you have questions regarding your health.