Ovarian Cancer

Risk of Ovarian Cancer Increases with Age

Sadly, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. It accounts for nearly 3% of all cancers among women and over 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Risk for ovarian cancer does increase with age, especially following menopause. The peak age incidence is approximately age 60. Most women go through menopause around age 52. A family history of any of the following cancers is a very important risk factor:

  • Epithelial ovarian cancer
  • Fallopian tube cancer
  • Peritoneal cancer
  • Premenopausal breast cancer
  • Male breast cancer

A personal history of premenopausal breast cancer is another important risk factor. Some families affected by both colon and endometrial cancer will have an increased risk. Infertility and not bearing children are also risk factors. If you have a family history of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer, talk with your doctor about genetic screening. This service is now available through our newest practice, the Center for Women’s Oncology (www.centerforwomensoncolog.com)

Historically, ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer.” That’s because symptoms were not thought to develop until the chance of cure was poor. Recent studies, though, have shown this term is not accurate. The following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population:

  • Bloatingcervical cancer
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of symptoms are a key factor in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than 2-3 weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage. And early stage is associated with an improved prognosis.