September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is cancer that originates in the ovaries, where a woman’s eggs are formed for reproduction and also where estrogen and progesterone, essential hormones, are secreted. There are various types of ovarian cancer and different stages.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), this year alone about 22,240 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and 14,230 will die from the disease.
Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in women. A woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 72. Her lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 100. (ACS)
Ovarian cancer is most prevalent in older women, with about half of all diagnoses occurring in women 63 years or older. It’s more common in the Caucasian population than in African-American women.
The good news? The rate of diagnosis for ovarian cancer has been falling slowly over the past two decades.
Recently there has been an increased awareness of inherited risk factors for ovarian cancer such as gene mutations. Specifically BRCA1 and BRCA2, which a woman can be tested for especially if there is a family history on either side of her family of ovarian or other cancers such as breast cancer. Other risk factors for developing ovarian cancer are age, use of estrogen-only menopausal hormone therapy, being overweight or obese, and personal or family history of breast cancer. You also may be at an increased risk if:
- you started menstruating at a young age (before 12),
- you’ve never had children,
- you had your first child after age 30,
- you experienced menopause after age 50,
- you never took oral contraceptives.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, digestive disturbances, urinary urgency or frequency, fatigue, lower back pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Depending on your risk factors and symptoms, you may want to be screened for ovarian cancer. Be sure to talk with your health care provider and develop a plan of care designed especially for you.
The American Cancer Society has much more information on ovarian cancer.