Pierce Brosnan’s daughter recently passed away after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. Brosnan’s daughter, Charlotte, 41, had a family history – both her mother and grandmother died of ovarian cancer.

While it’s still not clear what causes ovarian cancer, some women, like Charlotte, are more at risk:

  • Women who have a family history, especially those who had a mother, aunt or cousin with ovarian cancer
  • Women with certain inherited genes, such as the BRCA gene (often linked to breast cancer)
  • Older women – more than half of ovarian cancers occur in women 63 or older
  • Women who have had hormone replacement therapy

Diet, obesity and smoking are also linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, while pregnancy – and breastfeeding – is linked to a lower risk.

It is hard to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages. Many of the symptoms are general:

  • Bloating
  • Ongoing pain or cramps in the stomach, back or pelvis
  • Trouble eating
  • Nausea
  • Frequent urination

Dr. Scott Rose, a gynecologic oncology expert at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center,  says annual check-ups can help women and doctors keep track of any routine changes. It can also detect more serious symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding. Gynecologic oncologists focus on cancers that involve a woman’s reproductive system. This includes the ovaries, the uterine lining and the cervix.

Dr. Rose says treatments for ovarian cancer include surgerychemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“Minimally invasive surgery to remove the uterus, tubes, ovaries and lymph nodes is one of the most successful treatments for removing a gynecological cancer, as long as it has not spread beyond the uterine lining,” explains Dr. Rose.

The American Cancer Society says there are three main types of ovarian cancer.  Treatment often depends on the type of cancer, and how advanced the disease may be. It’s best to speak with a doctor about your options if you face a cancer diagnosis.