September is National Ovarian Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found inside, near, or on the outer layer of the ovaries. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women and 1 in 75 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Each year, approximately 21,980 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. These numbers are shocking, but it is important to understand the prevalence and risk of this form of cancer.

History of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, or colon cancer in the family can have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. This information is not just for women either; ovarian cancer affects everybody either directly or indirectly.

Ovarian cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or frequency
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, and backaches

These are not sole identifiers of ovarian cancer, so it is important to talk to your doctor if you or you know someone who is experiencing any of these symptoms. Some women may not be aware, but a pap test does not detect ovarian cancer. The only way to diagnose ovarian cancer is with a physical examination, pelvic examination, blood test, ultrasound, and a biopsy.

It is important to note that all women are at risk for this disease, but there are more specific risk factors associated with it. As with many other diseases, early detection is key in increasing survival rate. So, get screened, be informed, and be aware this month!

Ovarian cancer risk factors

  • Family history of breast of ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of cancer
  • Women over the age of 55
  • Women who were never pregnant
  • Women on menopausal hormone replacement therapy

Sources: National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Lifework Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.