Ovarian Cancer FAQs
Ovarian cancer is cancer that affects one or both ovaries. Ovarian cancer is not common. But because ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it is in an advanced stage, it is the number one cause of deaths from gynecologic cancer in the United States.
Certain risk factors are associated with epithelial ovarian cancer. The following factors have been shown to increase a woman’s risk of getting this type of cancer:
- Age older than 55 years
- Family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus)
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
- Never having had children
- Lynch Syndrome.
A screening test is a test that is done when no symptoms are present. Examples of screening tests are colonoscopy for colorectal cancer and the Pap test for cervical cancer. Currently, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is symptomatic. You should be alert to any changes in your body and discuss them with your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or health care professional. The earlier that ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the more likely that treatment will be successful.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer? If you have any of the following symptoms, especially if you have them for more than 12 days per month, contact your ob-gyn or other health care professional:
- Bloating or an increase in abdominal size
- Pelvic pain/pressure or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (frequency and urgency).
- Others symptoms can include vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause, and a change in bowel habits, fatigue, low back and leg pain.
Having these symptoms does not mean that you have ovarian cancer, but it is a good idea to find out what is causing them.
If you have frequent or persistent symptoms of ovarian cancer, you may have a physical
exam, including a pelvic exam. An imaging test of the ovaries, such as a transvaginal ultrasound exam, may be done. If a growth is found on an ovary, your ob-gyn may order a blood test to measure your CA 125 level. CA 125 sometimes is increased in women with ovarian cancer.
Results of these tests are used to assess the likelihood that the growth is
cancer. Test results also will guide the next steps in evaluation.
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