Healthy Living

Ovarian Cancer: Get the Facts

Ovarian Cancer: Get the Facts

Key Takeaways

  • Ovarian cancer is the 8th most common type of cancer that affects the female population.
  • Every woman in this world is at risk for ovarian cancer.
  • The usage of fertility drugs can increase the risk for ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer that affects the female population. The disease is very painful and uncomfortable, which can spread to the nearest organs in a very short time. If the disease is discovered at the first (localized) stage, the patient will have a 5-year survival rate of 93%. Here are some other facts about ovarian cancer:

1. Late Diagnosis

Only 15% of the cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the early stages. The reason is that patients often confuse the symptoms to some less dangerous disease. Ovarian cancer is very often discovered at a late stage, when the patient needs to go to hysterectomy and chemotherapy, or in a worst case when is too late for something to be done.

If the disease is diagnosed in the early stages, there are more chances of survival. If the patient suspects that she may have ovarian cancer, she should ask her gynecologist to refer her to a gynecologic oncologist, who treats women’s cancer conditions.

2. Age and Gender

Every woman in the world is at risk for ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer often affects women over 60, but that doesn’t mean that younger women are safe. It also depends on a woman's origin and other risk factors such as a family history of ovarian, uterine, cervical, or breast cancer.

If a woman is aware that the symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to those of heavy periods, she will be more careful and she will talk to her gynecologist more often. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • pain during periods
  • irregular bleeding
  • pelvic and abdominal pains
  • the urge to urinate even when the bladder is empty

These symptoms are associated with less dangerous diseases, which is why the patient and the doctors should be aware of the possibility of ovarian cancer.

3. Pap Test

A Pap test is done by taking vaginal or cervical cell samples and checking for any cellular changes in the cervix or vagina that show cancer or conditions that might develop into one. Pap tests don't detect ovarian cancer, even though there are some very rare cases when something can be shown in the results. 

4. Statistics

Ovarian cancer is the 8th most common type of cancer that affects the female population. It is also the type of cancer that ranks 5th as the most common cause of cancer deaths among the female population. Moreover, ovarian cancer is strongly connected to overweight women.

5. Gene Mutations

Women with mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are at a high risk to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. If there are cases of breast or ovarian cancer in the family, a woman should go to her gynecologist to ask for more examinations. The sooner ovarian cancer is discovered, the better are the chances of survival. 

Sometimes, the examinations such as pelvic and abdomen screenings can get to “false positive” results. The procedure of diagnosing and determining ovarian cancer can be very hard for both doctor and patient because the symptoms are similar to those of less dangerous diseases.

6. Hormone Replacement Therapies

The usage of fertility drugs among women can increase their risk for ovarian cancer. Menopausal and post-menopausal hormone replacement therapies also increase the risk for ovarian cancer.

Menstrual changes, back pain, painful intercourse, unexplained weight gain or loss, constipation, or unusual fatigue – all of these symptoms are less common with ovarian cancer. However, if they are combined with the most common symptoms, it can be a clear sign that something is wrong and the woman should visit her gynecologist immediately.