While it’s true that ovarian cancer is the deadliest type of cancer to affect a woman’s reproductive system, early diagnosis can significantly improve outcomes. In fact, the five-year survival rate for women whose ovarian cancer is detected and treated early is 92 percent. Here’s what every woman should know to help protect themselves.
“There are currently no screening modalities for ovarian cancer,” says gynecologic oncologist Robert Holloway, MD, medical director of the gynecologic oncology program at AdventHealth Cancer Institute. “This is why it is so important to pay attention to symptoms and to be seen annually by your OB/GYN for a pelvic exam and other routine health screenings.”
Also, knowing your potential risk factors may help:
Age: Half of all ovarian cancer cases occur in women ages 63 and older.
Obesity: A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher may put you at higher risk.
Family history: If you have a first-degree relative who’s had ovarian cancer or a history of it on your father’s side, you can be at higher risk.
Personal history: Women who’ve had colorectal, uterine or breast cancer may have higher risk.
Pregnancy: Women who’ve never given birth or do so after age 35 may have greater risk. The more children a woman has, the less prone she is to ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding may lower risk.
Medications: Evidence suggests estrogen-only hormone therapy after menopause may raise your risk, though use of oral contraceptives before menopause can lower risk up to 30 percent.
Talk to your provider about your risks for ovarian cancer as well as potential, easy-to-overlook symptoms like those below.
- Belly swelling or bloating
- Diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination
- Feeling full quickly
- Unexplained, persistent low back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
If any of these symptoms are not normal for you and last for more than two weeks, consult your doctor right away. Diagnosing ovarian cancer even two weeks earlier can make a difference. And know that while screening for this aggressive cancer is challenging, researchers have made significant advancements to date.
“Exciting, new options now exist for patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer. New clinical trials, immunotherapies, leading-edge surgical techniques and novel drugs are being used to treat this disease. Emerging strategies have been improving outcomes for ovarian cancer patients across the board,” says Dr. Holloway.
To discuss ovarian cancer screenings, treatment or other women’s health needs, connect with our Women’s Health Navigator by calling 407-720-5191 or visiting HerHealthNavigator.com.