According to The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (http://www.ovariancancer.org/), ovarian cancer is a killer disease. Knowing the symptoms and risk factors can help in early detection and prevention. September is widely considered Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
While ovarian cancer only accounts for approximately three percent of cancers in women, it is the ninth most common cancer among women and is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers.
Types of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries (women’s reproductive glands that produce ova). While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, some theories exist: Genetic errors may occur because of damage from the normal monthly release of an egg. Increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.
Different types of ovarian cancer are classified according to the type of cell from which they start.
Epithelial tumors – About 90 percent of ovarian cancers develop in the epithelium, the thin layer of tissue that covers the ovaries. This form of ovarian cancer generally occurs in postmenopausal women.
Germ cell carcinoma tumors –Making up about five percent of ovarian cancer cases, this type begins in the cells that form eggs. While germ cell carcinoma can occur in women of any age, it tends to be found most often in women in their early 20s.
Stromal carcinoma tumors – Ovarian stromal carcinoma accounts for about five percent of ovarian cancer cases. It develops in the connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together and those that produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Some of the facts:
• A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 71.
• Early detection greatly increases survival.
• Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are often subtle and easily confused with other conditions.
• When ovarian cancer is detected before it has spread beyond the ovaries, nine out of 10 women will survive for more than five years. However, fewer than 20 percent of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early.
Learn ovarian cancer’s subtle symptoms.
• Many people do not know that ovarian cancer causes these symptoms in the majority of women who develop the disease: bloating; pelvic and abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
• Additional symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities.
• There is no reliable and easy-to-administer early detection test for ovarian cancer (the Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, does not detect ovarian cancer).
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance offers a free Symptom Diary App, which women can use to track symptoms and risk factors. Learn more and access the app at OvarianCancer.org/app.
Risk factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing cancer:
- Family history of breast / ovarian cancer
- Genetic mutation
- Hormone replacement
- More menstrual cycles
- Increased age
Risk factors that can decrease a woman’s risk of developing cancer:
- Removal of ovaries / fallopian tubes
- Oral contraceptive use
- Tubal ligation