Do you know the signs of Ovarian Cancer?
Authors: -- Dr. Uma Chandavarkar and Dr. Dimitry Lerner, board certified gynecologic oncologists
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. On Friday, September 1, we will be wearing teal to raise awareness for this cancer. Please consider joining us.
Ovarian cancer is a deadly disease. Among female reproductive cancers, it has the highest rate of death. While it is rare, making up only 3% of cancers in women, it is important to know the warning signs. The earlier it is caught, the better the chances for survival.
Here are a few stats on ovarian cancer*:
- Each year approximately 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States.
- Of those cases, about half are in women over the age of 63.
- The National Cancer Institute estimates that 14,080 women will die of ovarian cancer in 2017.
- 5-year survival rate for cases caught in stage I: 92.5%
- 5-year survival rate for cases caught in stage IV: 25.1%
Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries, almond-sized glands in the female reproductive system that produce hormones. From there, the disease can spread to the nearby organs such as the fallopian tubes and into the rest of the body via the lymph or blood systems.
One of the reasons ovarian cancer is deadly is because it often causes little to no symptoms in its earliest stages. Symptoms of ovarian cancer include
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
- Sudden weight loss
- Sudden weight gain
- Abnormal bleeding or periods
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Back pain
The people most at risk are those with a history of ovarian cancer in their families and older women. There isn’t much a woman can do to reduce her risk of getting ovarian cancer. At this point, no reliable tests for screening have been developed. It is known that women on oral contraceptives have a lower rate of ovarian cancer, but oral contraceptives come with their own risks and are a personal choice. If you are a woman of any age, you should let your doctor know if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, especially any persistent pain in the abdomen or abnormal bleeding.
Catch Ovarian Cancer Early
If ovarian cancer can be caught in its earliest stages, a woman’s chance of successful treatment and survival are high. The 5-year survival rate for women with stage I breast cancer is over 90%. Once that cancer progresses to the last stages (stage III and IV), less than one in three women will survive 5 years. When ovarian cancer causes symptoms, it is important that women recognize these symptoms and make appointments with their health care providers promptly.
Join us in spreading awareness for ovarian cancer and making sure it’s caught at its earliest stages.
Here’s what you can do today to make a difference:
- Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of ovarian cancer.
- Always visit your primary care physician for an annual check-up
- Encourage any woman in your life experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer to visit her doctor.
- Wear teal on Friday, September 1.
*Statistics from the National Cancer Institute and ovariancancerawareness.org.