What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

Thursday, August 31, 2017

For those of you who doesn’t know, September has been proclaimed by former US President Obama as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. If breast cancer awareness is represented by a pink ribbon, teal ribbon is the international representation for ovarian cancer awareness. With that in mind, I decided to write this post, in collaboration with ConsumerSafety.org, to educate people about ovarian cancer.

What is Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a disease wherein malignant cancer cells develop on the surface of the ovary or from tissues inside the ovary. This cancer can affect either one or both ovaries. There are different types of ovarian cancer but the most common one is epithelial ovarian cancer wherein tumors developed on the surface of the ovary. If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, then there is a 90% chance that it is an epithelial ovarian cancer.

Key Statistics About Ovarian Cancer
  • Ovarian cancer ranks 5th in cancer deaths among women
  • Ovarian cancer is the #1 cause of gynecologic cancer deaths
  • Women have a 1 in 75 chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime
  • Half the women who develop ovarian cancer are over the age of 60
  • Around 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year
  • 14,000 women die each year from ovarian cancer
  • Only 15% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at stage 1
  • Every 23 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States

Ovarian cancer is hard to detect early because most of its symptoms are also common symptoms of other illnesses or there could be no symptoms at all.

Some of its common symptoms are:
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating (loss of appetite) or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
  • Abnormal menstruations
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Unexplained frequent back pain
  • Vaginal bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex
Know Your Risk Factors

Certain women have higher chance of having ovarian cancer because they satisfy some risk factors associated to it. Risk factor pertains to something that can increase your chance of getting a disease. Take note though that even if you have the following risk factors associated to ovarian cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get the disease.


The older the woman gets, the higher her chance of getting ovarian cancer. This is the reason why most women develop ovarian cancer after menopause.

Genetic Mutations

Ever wonder why even people who are living a healthy lifestyle are still getting cancer? It’s because of genetic mutation – it could be in the genes. Genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are responsible for controlling cell growth in our body. Mutations in those genes have been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Family History

If you have a family history (in multiple generations) of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, then there is a chance that you will also inherit the cancer-causing genes.


Some studies have shown that obese women (especially those with a body mass index of at least 30) have a slightly higher risk of getting ovarian cancer.

How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed

We always hear that prevention is better than a cure. It means the sooner the ovarian cancer is detected, the better the chance of treatment and recovery. If you suspect yourself to have ovarian cancer, then you may want to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound so the doctor can see if there are some abnormal findings in your ovaries. If an abnormal growth is found, your doctor may also advise you to take a blood test to measure your CA 125 level. An increased level of CA (Cancer Antigen) 125 substance in your blood may indicate the presence of cancerous tumors.

How is Ovarian Cancer Treated

Depending on the severity of the ovarian cancer, it’s either only the affected ovary will be removed or the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries will be removed altogether. Chemotherapy may be recommended before or after the surgery or both.

How to Reduce Your Risk

Oral Contraceptives

Use of birth control pills for more than 5 years reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by 50%. The risk is actually decreased by 10 to 12 percent after just one year of use. In other words, the longer the oral contraceptives are used, the lower the risk of getting ovarian cancer.


Hysterectomy pertains to the removal of the uterus. This surgery can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by about one-third. Of course, the only downside to this is that you won’t be able to get pregnant after this operation.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnancy before the age of 26 and breastfeeding can both lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

Healthy Diet

Eat foods rich in vitamin A, D & E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. salmon, tuna, etc.). Limit the consumption of processed meat (e.g. bacon). Eating a healthy, balanced diet will not only lower the risk of ovarian cancer, but will also prevent other diseases.

Talc Powder

Some studies have shown that using talc powder on the genital area for a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The link between talc and ovarian cancer originated from the fact that pre-1970, talc powders were sometimes contaminated with asbestos which is a known carcinogen. Recently, there have been a lot of ovarian cancer patients who have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. These patients believe that their ovarian cancer was caused by using Johnson’s Baby Powder on their genital area for several years.


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