World Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day was yesterday March 8th, 2022. I missed posting but feel strongly that this topic needs to be discussed. It’s very common for women to get Ovarian Cancer and knowing the signs is important to your health.
Who Gets Ovarian Cancer?
- The lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 out of every 78 women, or 1.3 percent.
- The risk is greater in individuals with a family history of ovarian, colorectal, or breast cancer.
- Inherited mutations (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2) are thought to contribute to about 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases.
There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer, grouped into three categories by the type of cell where the malignancy begins.
- Epithelial: About 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas. In this type of cancer, the malignant tumor originates in the surface epithelial tissue, which is on the outside of the ovary. The risk of epithelial ovarian cancer increases with age, especially after the age of 50.
- Germ Cell: These tumors start from the cells that produce the individual eggs. Germ cell tumors are rare, accounting for 5 percent of all ovarian cancers. They usually occur in girls and women younger than 30 years of age. They are usually caught at an early stage and have high survival rates.
- Sex Cord Stromal: These tumors develop in the connective tissues that hold the ovary together and produce male or female hormones. Sex cord stromal tumors are relatively rare, accounting for 5 percent of all ovarian cancers, and are generally less aggressive than other ovarian tumors.
In the past, it was thought that ovarian cancer had no symptoms and was known as the “silent” killer. However, according to research conducted by Dr. Barbara Goff, professor and chair of the UW Division of Gynecologic Oncology and SCCA physician, early symptoms may be present in many women, but just missed or not noticed. There are early warning symptoms of ovarian cancer, according to Dr. Goff. But they often go unnoticed because they are often vague symptoms that people may experience off and on normally. Some of the symptoms include abdominal swelling, pain, bloating, a feeling of fullness even after a light meal, a change in bowel habits, frequent urination, and loss of appetite. You may also notice irregular bleeding, or bleeding with intercourse. “If these are new symptoms that persist for at least three weeks, you should talk to your doctor,” Dr. Goff says.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age, especially at around the age of menopause. A family history of ovarian cancer is the most important risk factor. A family history of breast cancer may also increase your risk. Other factors that may increase your risk include:
- A personal history of breast, endometrial, or colon cancer or Lynch syndrome
- A history of infertility, or the use of fertility drugs
- Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
- A mutation or abnormal change in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (known as the breast-ovarian susceptibility gene).
Know your risk factors and the signs to look for, Ovarian Cancer is very treatable if caught early. I had a history of Ovarian Cancer on both sides of my family, when I had Cervical Cancer and needed a hysterectomy, the doctors recommended I have my ovaries removed as well due to the high risk of cancer. I took their recommendation!