Ovarian Cancer: Reduce Your Risk

By Donnica L. Moore, MD

Posted on | By Donnica L. Moore, MD

Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer in women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) and the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women. While it can affect women at any age, the average age of diagnosis is 63; the average age of death from ovarian cancer is 71. Yet nearly 5% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 34 or under. According to American Cancer Society data, 21,880 American women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010 and 13,850 women died as a result.

Fewer than 20% of ovarian cancers are caught early, in stage 1, when they’re most treatable and the patient has the highest survival rate. Unfortunately, most women with ovarian cancer have progressed to stage 3 by the time they’re diagnosed, when the prognosis is much lower. This is why the motto of many ovarian cancer advocates is, “Until there’s a test, awareness is best.”

Know the "Silent" Symptoms

Ovarian cancer was once considered a “silent” disease because it was thought that it didn’t have any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. We now know that women diagnosed with early ovarian cancer frequently noticed several symptoms in common: bloating or increased abdominal girth; pelvic or abdominal pain (or pain with intercourse); frequent or urgent urination; and either difficulty eating or a sense of feeling full very quickly.

These symptoms may be subtle, but they are not silent, so it is important to listen to your body. While these symptoms are often signs of other less serious medical problems, doctors don’t expect you to make your own diagnosis. If you have any medical symptoms that cause concern, interfere with your daily activities, or persist beyond two weeks, it’s time to consult your physician. 

Click here for a chart you can use to track your symptoms.

Article written by Donnica L. Moore, MD