What do I need to know about ovarian cancer?

Approximately 75% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, after the cancer has spread beyond the ovary.  For this reason, it's important to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer so that it can be detected at the earliest possible stage.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Recent studies have shown that certain symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population, including:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, constipation, pain with intercourse and menstrual irregularities.

If you have these symptoms almost daily for more than two weeks, see a gynecologist.

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Call SHARE's helpline at (866) 53-SHARE.

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

There is currently no effective screening tool for ovarian cancer.  A pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer.

To assist with the diagnosis experts recommend a pelvic/rectal exam, a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test.

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

  • Family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer
  • Age. Ovarian cancer is most common in women 55 and older, but young women do get ovarian cancer
  • Reproductive history, including never having been pregnant, early menstruation and infertility, among others
  • Personal history of premenopausal breast cancer

Treatments for Ovarian Cancer

Surgery is usually the first step in the treatment of ovarian cancer.  It should be performed by a gynecologic oncologist, a specialist trained in surgically removing all visible disease.

Chemotherapy is most often the next step in treatment; in rare cases radiation therapy is used.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells on or in one or both ovaries.  Like all malignant tumors, ovarian malignant tumors can divide and reproduce more rapidly than normal cells. In later stages of the cancer, these tumors can spread throughout the pelvis and abdomen.

Additional Resources

Recording and slides from SHARE's Webinar, "Strategies for Long-term Management of Recurrent Ovarian Cancer," with Dr. June Hou, Dr. Jason Wright, and Survivor/Advocate Annie Ellis.

Check out this video by N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) to learn "What Every Woman Needs to Know" about GYN Cancers. N.E.D. is a rock group made up of GYN cancer surgeons who raise awareness with music. The video is also available in Spanish and Arabic.

OCRF 2016

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