About Ovarian Cancer*
Ovarian cancer is cancer that begins in tissues of the ovaries. It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018 there will be about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer in the U.S.,
and about 14,070 women will die because of the disease. Around half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 or older. Ovarian
cancer is rare in women younger than 40. It is slightly more common in white women than women of other races/ethicities.
A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 78, and her lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer
is about 1 in 108.
Ovarian cancer is sometimes called "the disease that whispers" because it very often is not detected until it is
in the advanced stages. Currently, there is no effective means of early detection for the disease. As a result, only 46.5% of women
survive longer than 5 years. About 15% of cases are diagnosed in the early stages, before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary
to the pelvic region. If ovarian cancer is detected and treated early, more than 90% of patients live longer than 5 years after
diagnosis. Several studies are in progress to learn the best ways to find ovarian cancer in its earliest stage.
Some Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Some Risk Factors
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, and/or feeling full quickly
- Unexplained change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
- Increased frequency and/or urgency of urination
- Unusual fatigue
- Menstrual irregularities
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
Possible Risk Reduction
- Increasing age, with highest occurrence in women after menopause
- Family or personal history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer
- Having no full-term pregnancies or having a first full-term pregnancy after age 35
- Presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations as well as the genes related to other family cancer syndromes
- Obesity (a body mass index of at least 30)
- Use of male hormones (androgens)
- Use of estrogen replacement therapy after menopause. The risk seems to be higher in women
taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) for at least 5 or 10 years.
- Many studies have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and cancer of the ovaries. Findings
have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase.
- Some studies have found an increased risk of mucinous ovarian cancer with smoking and alcohol use.
What to Do If You are Concerned or Have Symptoms that Persist
- Use of oral contraceptives; the risk is lower the longer the pills are used
- Having first full-term pregnancy before the age of 26. The risk goes down with each full-term pregnancy.
- Tying the fallopian tubes (tubal ligation)
- Removing the uterus (hysterectomy)
- Removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes with a hysterectomy
For More Information
- Speak to your gynecologist or a gynecologic oncologist for more information.
- Have a vaginal-rectal pelvic examination.
- Have a transvaginal ultrasound.
- The CA-125 blood test measures the level of a protein in the blood that may increase when a cancerous
tumor is present. However, because CA-125 can be elevated by conditions other than cancer, it is not
currently recommended for routine screening.
- It is important to note that none of these tests are definitive. The only way to confirm
the presence of ovarian cancer is through a surgical biopsy of the tumor tissue.
- Note: A PAP test is used to detect cervical cancer, NOT ovarian cancer.
- American Cancer Society, 800-227-2345, www.cancer.org
- Cancer Support Community, 888-793-9355, www.cancersupportcommunity.org
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 800-CDC-INFO, www.cdc.gov/cancer/knowledge
- Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, 301-619-7071, http://cdmrp.army.mil/ocrp
- FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, 866-288-7475, www.facingourrisk.org
- Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, 800-OVARIAN (682-7426), www.ovariancancer.com
- Foundation for Women's Cancer, 312-578-1439, www.foundationforwomenscancer.org
- National Cancer Institute, 800-4CANCER, www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian
- National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, 888-OVARIAN, www.ovarian.org
- Office on Women's Health, 800-994-9662, www.womenshealth.gov/
- Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, 212-268-1002, www.ocrahope.org
- Society of Gynecologic Oncology, 312-235-4060, www.sgo.org
- Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, 585-473-8177, www.bccr.org
- Cancer Care, Inc., 800-813-HOPE (4673), www.cancercare.org
- Cancer Wellness Connections, 585-469-5727, www.cancerwellnessconnections.org
- Cleaning for a Reason, 877-337-3348, www.cleaningforareason.org
- First Descents, 303-945-2490, www.firstdescents.org
- Gilda's Club Rochester NY, 585-423-9700, www.gildasclubrochester.org
- Globe-athon to End Women's Cancers, www.globeathon.com
- Look Good...Feel Better, 800-395-LOOK, www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org
- Naiades Oncology Rowing, 585-797-7894, www.naiadesoncologyrowing.com
- National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, 877-622-7937, www.canceradvocacy.org
- SHARE for Women Facing Breast or Ovarian Cancer, 844-ASK-SHARE, www.sharecancersupport.org
- Smart Patients Ovarian Cancer Community,
- Support Connection, 800-532-4290, www.supportconnection.org
- Woman to Woman, 212-268-1002/866-399-6262, www.womantowoman.ocrahope.org
* The information in this section was obtained primarily from the web sites of the American Cancer Society,
www.cancer.org, and the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance,