Ovarian Cancer is one of the most deadly of women’s cancers. Each year, approximately 21,980 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In 2014, approximately 14,270 women will die in the United States from this disease. It is estimated by the World Health Organization IARC department that there are over 238,000 new cases diagnosed annually and nearly 152,000 deaths worldwide.
This cancer typically occurs in women in their fifties and sixties with the median age being 63. Many women who are diagnosed with Ovarian cancer have a genetic history that may include carrying the BRCA mutation gene and having a strong family history of ovarian cancer.
Unfortunately many women don’t seek help until the disease has begun to spread, but if detected at its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is more than 93%. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle and easily confused with other ailments.
Symptoms may include:
• Pelvic or Abdominal pain
• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
• Urinary urgency or frequency
Other symptoms may include:
• Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea
• Extreme fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• Weight Gain
Your doctor may order the following tests:
• Physical examination – Your doctor will palpate your abdomen to look for discomfort and tenderness or abnormal fluid
• Pelvic examination
• Blood Test – Your doctor may order a CA-125 blood test. This test measures CA-125 in the blood. CA-125 is found on the surface on ovarian cancer cells and also normal tissue. A high CA-125 level may indicate ovarian cancer or other conditions.
Stages of Ovarian Cancer
There are four stages of ovarian cancer. Your doctor will determine your stage of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is treated differently depending on which stage you are diagnosed with.
The four primary stages are:
Stage I: The cancer is completely contained within the ovary or ovaries
Stage II: The cancer is in one or both of the ovaries and has spread to additional organs located in the pelvis such as the bladder, colon, rectum or uterus.
Stage III: The cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to one or both of the following: the lining of the abdomen or the lymph nodes.
Stage IV: The most advanced stage of cancer. The cancer has spread from one or both ovaries to additional organs such as the liver or lungs, or there may be cancer cells in the fluid surrounding the lungs.
Recurrent: The cancer has returned after successful treatment.
Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors
Ovarian cancer does not discriminate. It can strike a woman of any race or at any age. We do know that women with certain risk factors may have a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer.
These risk factors include:
• Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
• Personal history of cancer
• Women over the age of 55
• Women who were never pregnant
• Women on menopausal hormone replacement therapy
Studies have found that women who have a mother, daughter, or sister with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of developing this disease. Women with a family history of breast cancer, uterine cancer, colon cancer or rectal cancer many also have increased risk.
Women with the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
There is no adequate screening test of ovarian cancer at this time which is one of the reasons that this cancer is often discovered in later stages.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing the listed symptoms and they last more than 2-3 weeks. You are your best advocate.