By Dr. Nana Tchabo, a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at Atlantic Health System. She is dual board certified in gynecology-oncology and obstetrics and gynecology.
It’s important to know some basic facts about ovarian cancers, its risk factors and symptoms. Ovarian cancer arises from the ovaries and/or the surrounding structures including the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum (the inner lining of the abdominal and pelvic cavity).
The American Cancer Society 2022 projects
- 19,880 women will receive new diagnoses of ovarian cancer
- 12,810 women will die from ovarian cancer
- Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system because many cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.1
The cause of most ovarian cancers is not yet known. However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing it.
Common risk factors include:
- Increased weight
- Later age of having children or no children
- Hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- Family history of ovarian, breast, and colon cancers
- Familial cancer syndromes (inheriting changes in certain genes such as the BRCA1/2 genes and Lynch syndrome).1
Common symptoms include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency
Often these symptoms can still indicate a benign condition. Nonetheless, if symptoms are present for less than one year and occur greater than 12 days/month, it is important to see a doctor for evaluation.2
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer. There are no recommended screening tests in women who neither have symptoms nor are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
However, these factors are associated with a lower chance of getting ovarian cancer:
- Having used birth control pills for five or more years
- Having had a tubal ligation, both ovaries removed, or a hysterectomy
- Having given birth
As always, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk. While these measures may help reduce the chance of getting ovarian cancer, they are not recommended for everybody. Risks and benefits are associated with each.3