Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the ovaries—the female reproductive organs that produce eggs. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women, with over 21,000 new cases in the United States each year.
What are the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Understanding the risk factors associated with ovarian cancer is crucial in identifying individuals who may be at higher risk for developing the disease. Once you know your risk, you can discuss different preventive measures with your primary care provider.
- Family history of ovarian, breast, or colon cancer
- Age over 50
- Inherited genetic mutations (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2)
- Personal history of breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer
- Infertility or never having given birth
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and can be easily attributed to other medical conditions, making it challenging to diagnose the disease in its early stages. Watch out for the following symptoms:
- Bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, or discomfort
- Feeling full quickly while eating
- Urinary urgency or frequency
- Changes in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Menstrual irregularities
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
While there are no reliable screening tests for ovarian cancer, women at high risk may consider genetic testing, a transvaginal ultrasound, or CA-125 blood tests. However, it's important to discuss the risks and benefits of screening with a primary care provider.
What are the treatment options for ovarian cancer?
The most common treatment for ovarian cancer is surgery, which involves removing as much of the cancer as possible. Depending on the extent of the cancer, this may involve removing one or both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and the uterus. Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to combat any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used in some cases. Treatment may be different for women with early-stage versus advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
Knowing the risk factors and symptoms, and discussing screening options with a primary care provider, can help improve the chances of early detection and successful treatment. If you or someone you know has recently received a diagnosis, our expert team of oncologists at St. Joseph Health will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets your needs.