Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in one or both of the ovaries in the female reproductive system. Epithelial ovarian cancer which forms on the surface of the ovary, is the most common type. Another less common type is germ cell tumors which begin in egg cells. Women are at risk for ovarian cancer throughout their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.
Ovarian cancer symptoms are more apparent in later stages and can be difficult to detect in early stages. Ovarian cancer symptoms may include:
- Pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs.
- Swelling, bloating or cramping in the abdomen.
- Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation, or diarrhea.
- Frequent urination.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (heavy periods, or bleeding after menopause).
- Weight loss.
Risk Factors & Prevention
Women are at greater risk for ovarian cancer if you:
- Are infertile.
- Never had a baby.
- Have used birth control pills or other hormonal treatments such as estrogen or progesterone.
- Have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, or inherited certain mutations in genes that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
The causes of ovarian cancer remain unknown. A family history of ovarian or breast cancer can increase risk in some women. Inherited mutations of the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes can significantly increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer. Understanding your genetic make-up with genetic counseling can help determine your risk for ovarian cancer.
Follow Up Care
Women Guiding Women - peer support