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Ovarian Cancer can be both Quiet and Deadly

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

One in 72 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer during her lifetime, and each year this most deadly of women’s cancers takes the lives of more than 15,000 females nationwide.

In recognition of September being designated National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, ATRIO Health Plans is working to increase awareness of this stealthily serious disease.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer initially attacks one or both of a woman’s ovaries. Located on each side of the uterus, an ovary is a small, almond-shaped organ that stores eggs or germ cells and produces the female hormones estrogen as well as progesterone.

If an ovarian tumor is malignant, treatment will be predicated on the type of ovarian cancer – epithelial, germ cell or sex cord stromal – and the extent to which it has spread. When ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages, patient outcomes are the best. Specifically, the five-year-survival rate of ovarian cancer that’s caught early is more than 93 percent.

Unfortunately, because there isn’t an effective screening for ovarian cancer and its symptoms can be subtle, only 19 percent of all cases are uncovered at an early stage. Consequently, if an ovarian-cancer diagnosis is made at stage III, the five-year-survival rate is approximately 34 percent.


Ovarian cancer often escapes early detection because its symptoms aren’t obvious or easily can be attributed to other conditions. That said, potential symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • bloating;
  • pelvic or abdominal pain;
  • feeling full without consuming a large amount of food;
  • a need to urinate urgently or often;
  • fatigue;
  • heartburn;
  • back pain;
  • discomfort during sex;
  • nausea;
  • indigestion;
  • flatulence;
  • diarrhea;
  • shortness of breath;
  • weight gain;
  • constipation;
  • menstrual changes.

If a woman has any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, she should schedule an appointment with her health-care provider.

Risk Factors

While there are risk factors associated with ovarian cancer, the existence of one or more risk factors certainly doesn’t guarantee development of the disease. Rather, if a woman has one or more risk factors, she simply should be vigilant regarding potential symptoms. Some ovarian-cancer-risk factors are:

  • genetic predisposition;
  • family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer;
  • infertility.

Reduce your Risks

Although there’s no proven path to prevent ovarian cancer, there are some actions that potentially can reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease:

  • Birth control pills – Research has shown that women who’ve taken birth control pills for three or more years have between a 30% to 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who’ve never used oral contraceptives.
  • Breast-feeding and pregnancy – Studies indicate that having one or more children – especially if the first offspring is born before the woman is 25 – coupled with breast-feeding, may decrease a woman’s risk.
  • Tubal ligation – Surgically tying the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy also reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Hysterectomy – If you’re scheduled for a hysterectomy and have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, talk with your physician about the merits of removing both ovaries and fallopian tubes as part of the procedure.
  • Oophorectomy – This surgical procedure involves the removal of one or both of a woman’s healthy ovaries. Oophorectomy is only recommended for those at high risk for developing ovarian cancer.