Ovarian Cancer Is Not Just an Older Woman's Disease
Statistically, women are far more likely to develop breast rather than ovarian cancer, and since the signs and screenings of breast cancer are more apparent and accessible than those of ovarian cancer, few women feel compelled to regularly check themselves. Ovarian cancer also carries the stigma that it is an older woman’s disease, further distancing young women from an awareness of their risk for developing it.
How many women will get ovarian cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 79 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Of these women, there is about a 1 in 108 chance that she will die from the cancer. This ranks ovarian cancer as the number five cause of cancer-related deaths in women, and the number one cancer-related cause of death in the female reproductive system. The American Cancer Society projects that 14,070 women will die of ovarian cancer in the year 2018, while approximately 22,240 women will be diagnosed.
The idea that ovarian cancer is primarily an older woman’s disease comes from the fact that approximately half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over the age of 63. The majority of ovarian cancers have also been shown to develop after menopause, making ovarian cancer rare in women younger than 40. While it is true that age is the largest and most identifiable risk factor in developing ovarian cancer, this still means that about half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 63.
Risk is not always predictable
No matter how much research is done into the risk factors and hereditary risk of developing ovarian cancer, whether or not you do or do not develop ovarian cancer is unpredictable. Women with numerous risk factors have been known to go their whole lives without developing ovarian cancer, and women with no known risk factors have gone on to develop it. Risk factors do not apply to rarer presentations of ovarian cancer, including germ cell tumors and stromal tumors.
Listening to your body is the most important way to protect yourself
Whenever serious symptoms begin to occur, it is always best to go to the doctor and try and understand what is going on as soon as possible. Simply knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer at that time may be enough to save your life, no matter what age you are. Ovarian cancer may be significantly more common in older, at-risk women, but that doesn’t make the rest of the population exempt, and this is something that Kimberly Whitehouse knows all too well.
Read on to learn more about Kimberly Whitehouse's unique case, and more about ovarian cancer awareness.