Ovarian cancer forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells). Ovarian cancer is the tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, with 395 new cases diagnosed during 2010; however, it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among Indiana women, with 330 deaths during 2010. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Who gets Ovarian Cancer Most Often?
Family history seems to play the largest role in determining who is at risk for ovarian cancer. Women who have had breast cancer, or who have tested positive for inherited mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at increased risk. Studies indicate that preventive surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes in these women can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.
Some additional risk factors include:
- Age. The risk of developing ovarian cancer gets higher with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women 63 years of age or older.
- Other medical conditions. Other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease and a genetic condition called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (also called Lynch syndrome) may indicate an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
- History of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Studies have shown that the use of estrogen alone as menopausal hormone therapy can increase risk for developing ovarian cancer.
- Smoking. Tobacco smoking increases risk of mucinous ovarian cancer (cancer that begins in the outer lining of the ovary). Visit www.QuitNowIndiana.com for information, resources and assistance with smoking cessation.
- Obesity. Heavier body weight may also be associated with increased risk. Overall, it seems that obese women (those with a body mass index of at least 30) have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Early stages of ovarian cancer usually have no obvious symptoms. Some women may experience persistent, nonspecific symptoms including bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or urinary urgency or frequency. The American Cancer Society suggests that women who experience these types of symptoms on a regular basis (for example, daily) for more than a few weeks should consult with their healthcare provider. The most common sign of ovarian cancer is swelling of the abdomen caused by an accumulation of fluid.
About 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. When ovarian cancer is found early at a localized stage, about 94 percent of patients live longer than five years after diagnosis. Currently, there is no accurate test for early detection. Often, ovarian cancer detected during a routine pelvic examination is at an advanced stage. For women at high risk of ovarian cancer, or women with symptoms, a pelvic examination in combination with a transvaginal ultrasound and/or a blood test for the tumor marker CA125 may be used.
- Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheet — Use this fact sheet to educate your partners and communities. The fact sheet provides information and statistics on the ovarian cancer burden in Indiana.
- Sample Press Release for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (September) — This press release is designed to be customized and sent to local media outlets.
- Sample Social Media Messages — These sample messages can be customized, or used as they are to promote awareness, prevention, and early detection.
- Indiana Cancer Control Plan 2010-2014 — Provides a roadmap for cancer control in Indiana. The ICCP includes six focus areas: primary prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, data, and advocacy. This can be linked to documents, websites, presentations, or through social media.
Additional and online resources:
- Indiana State Department of Health
- Indiana Cancer Consortium
- QuitNow Indiana
- Little Red Door
- American Cancer Society
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities
- National Cancer Institute
- Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
- National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
- Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
- Ovarian Cancer Awareness Foundation
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2013. Atlanta, GA. 2013. Accessed at http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancerfactsfigures2013/index on May 31, 2013.