Ovarian cancer in the United States could result in about 19,710 new diagnoses and about 13,270 deaths in 2023, per the American Cancer Society. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and is more common in older White women.
Thankfully, the incidence of ovarian cancer has been decreasing slowly over the past 20 years, likely due to increased use of oral contraceptives and reduced use of hormone therapy. The mortality rate has also shown improvement, with a decline in deaths, reflecting both decreased incidence and advancements in treatment.
However, even with such evident improvement, ovarian cancer is not eradicated, and adult women of all demographics can develop this life-threatening type of reproductive cancer. Early detection is crucial to saving one’s life.
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects the ovaries, which are female reproductive organs located in the pelvis. It occurs when cells in one or both ovaries start to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way. Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
While there are no official screening tests for ovarian cancer, it’s vital to be aware of the signs that may signal something is wrong. Common symptoms include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary issues, such as having to urinate often or urgently
These symptoms may be vague and easy to brush off, but if you experience any of them regularly for more than two weeks, see your gynecologist.
How to Catch Ovarian Cancer Early
Awareness of ovarian cancer’s symptoms is the first step in catching it early. If you expect that something is wrong, get a pelvic exam as soon as possible. Your doctor will check your ovaries for any signs of cancer or other problems and may recommend additional tests like an ultrasound or blood test to evaluate your risk level. Scheduling a wellness checkup with your doctor sooner rather than later could very well save your life.
Ovarian cancer is highly treatable when caught early, so you must seek medical help as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms. Depending on the cancer’s stage, treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or perhaps a combination of these methods.
There’s no single, cure-all method to prevent ovarian cancer. However, there are steps you may take to reduce the risk. You should maintain a healthy weight for your age, avoid smoking or vaping, avoid alcohol, get regular pelvic exams, and limit the amount of hormone therapy you use.
Additionally, if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, it’s important to talk to your doctor so they can assess your risk and determine the best course of action for prevention.
It’s worth noting that women who give birth to a child before they turn 30 have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, and the risk lowers further for every child born. As indicated by the CDC, studies also show that women who breastfeed for over a year reduce their risk of ovarian cancer.
Schedule an Appointment With The Woman’s Clinic
At The Woman’s Clinic, we are dedicated to the highest quality of care for all stages of a woman’s life, helping you detect ovarian cancer early. Our experienced team of OB/GYNs is here to help you with any questions or concerns you may have about your health. Know your risk of ovarian cancer and get a checkup today.