What's in this article?
What is ovarian cancer?
Cancer of the ovary is not common, but it causes more deaths than other female reproductive cancers. The sooner ovarian cancer is found and treated, the better your chance for recovery. But ovarian cancer is hard to detect early.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is the 8th most common cancer among women in the United States (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers).
However, it is the 5th most common cause of cancer deaths in women. Among the gynecologic cancers (uterine, cervical, and ovarian), ovarian cancer has the highest rate of deaths.
Each year, more than 22,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and around 14,000 will die.
Tragically, the overall 5-year survival rate is only 46 percent in most developed countries (it is lower for more advanced stages).
However, according to the National Cancer Institute, if diagnosis is made early, before the tumor has spread, the 5 year survival rate is 94 percent.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- feeling constantly bloated
- a swollen tummy
- discomfort in your tummy or pelvic area
- feeling full quickly when eating
- needing to pee more often than normal
The symptoms aren’t always easy to recognise because they’re similar to those of some more common conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Signs of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer warning signs include ongoing pain or cramps in the belly or back, abnormal vaginal bleeding, nausea, and bloating. Depending on the cancer stage, ovarian cancer treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy.
How is ovarian cancer staging determined?
Staging is the process of classifying a tumor according to the extent to which it has spread in the body at the time of diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer staging:
- Stage 1: Limited to one or both ovaries
- Stage 2: Limited to the pelvis
- Stage 3: Disease outside of the pelvis, but limited to the abdomen, or lymph node involvement, but not including the inside of the liver
- Stage 4: Disease spread to the liver or outside of the abdomen
What are the Risk of ovarian cancer?
Certain factors may increase your risk of ovarian cancer:
- Age. Ovarian cancer can occur at any age but is most common in women ages 50 to 60 years.
- Inherited gene mutation. A small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited gene mutation. The genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes were originally identified in families with multiple cases of breast cancer, which is how they got their names, but women with these mutations also have a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The gene mutations that cause Lynch syndrome, which is associated with colon cancer, also increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer.
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy, especially with long-term use and in large doses.
- Age when menstruation started and ended. If you began menstruating before age 12 or underwent menopause after age 52, or both, your risk of ovarian cancer may be higher.
- Never being pregnant.
- Fertility treatment.
- Use of an intrauterine device.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.
If you have a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer, your doctor may recommend regular pelvic imaging and blood tests to screen for the disease.
read more about Ovarian cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors & Treatments