Each September, America calls attention to a deadly disease that affects thousands of women and their families across our country. National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month was created as a way of lending support to everyone touched by this disease, remembering those that have died and strengthening the effort to better prevent, detect, treat and ultimately defeat ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 14,030 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States, making it the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 72 and a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 95.
Because ovarian cancer often goes undetected until advanced stages, increasing awareness of risk factors is critical to fighting this disease. Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
• Increasing age
• Reproductive history & infertility
• Hormonal replacement therapy
While ovarian cancer has often been given the nickname the “silent killer,” over the past decade science has confirmed that ovarian cancer does in fact have symptoms. These symptoms are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency). See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of a month and the symptoms are new or unusual for you.
There is currently no way to prevent ovarian cancer. There are, however, several measures that have been found to reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease. Oral contraceptives can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by fifty percent if taken for at least five years. Research also shows that pregnancy and breast-feeding significantly reduce ovarian cancer risk.