Nearly 21,990 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Unfortunately, because most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the disease has already spread beyond the ovaries, nearly 15,460 will lose their lives. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer related deaths in women.
The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer, if caught in early or in stage one, is 90 percent. If detected in an advanced stage (three or four), that survival rate drops to 15-20 percent. Currently, there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer, but because early diagnosis is so important, women should be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of this cancer and consult their healthcare providers if they are at risk or notice any changes that may be signs of the disease.
Factors that may increase the likelihood of getting ovarian cancer include:
- Age– most ovarian cancers develop after menopause, and half of all ovarian cancers are found in women over the age of 63
- Obesity– a study by the American Cancer Society found a higher rate of death from ovarian cancer in obese women
- Reproductive history– women who started menstruating before age 12, had no children or had their first child after age 30, and/or experienced menopause after age 50 may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer
- Fertility drugs– prolonged use of the fertility drug clomiphene citrate, especially without achieving pregnancy may increase the risk for developing ovarian tumors
- Family history– a woman’s chance of developing ovarian cancer is increased if her mother, sister or daughter had ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer
- Breast cancer– women with BRCA mutation have an increased risk of ovarian cancer
- Talcum powder– women who use talc in the genital area may have a slight increase in risk
- Estrogen or hormone replacement therapy– some studies suggest using estrogen replacement therapy may increase a woman’s risk of developing the disease
- Female Surgery- Having your "tubes tied" (tubal ligation) may reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer. A hysterectomy (removal of the uterus without removing the ovaries) also seems to reduce the risk of getting ovarian cancer.
- Diet– A recent study of women who followed a low-fat diet for at least 4 years showed a lower risk of ovarian cancer. Some studies have shown a reduced rate of ovarian cancer in women who ate a diet high in vegetables, but other studies disagree.
- Smoking and Alcohol use- Some studies have found an increased risk for one type of ovarian cancer (mucinous).
While early cancer of the ovaries tends to cause symptoms that are relatively vague, women who experience any of these symptoms should consult their healthcare providers:
- abnormal swelling of the stomach
- unusual vaginal bleeding
- pelvic pressure
- back pain
- leg pain
- digestive problems such as gas, bloating, indigestion, or long term stomach pain
- trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- having to urinate often or feeling like you have to "go" right away
In addition to being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer, Arizona Oncology reminds all women to speak with their healthcare providers about this disease and have an annual vaginal exam after the age 18.
Arizona Oncology plays a major role in the battle against ovarian cancer by providing easy access a full range of advanced cancer care services. Our medical and radiation oncologists and their staffs provide chemotherapy, injections, infusion services, radiation therapy and diagnostic imaging services in a setting that allows patients to remain close to their homes and their support network of family and friends. As a result, patients access the best possible treatment with the least amount of disruption to their daily lives.
Through our affiliation with US Oncology, one of the nation’s foremost cancer treatment and research networks, allows us to enhance patient access to the latest advances in therapies, clinical research and technology to patients in our community. In fact, US Oncology is currently is involved in approximately 90 research trials for breast, colorectal, lung, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer therapies, and has contributed to the development of 42 cancer-fighting drugs approved by the FDA.