Ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer, and it causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer. According to the The National Cancer Institute, there was an estimated 14,270 in the United States in 2014.
Here are five things every woman should know about ovarian cancer.
1. All women are at risk for ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is diagnosed annually in nearly a quarter of a million women globally, and is responsible for 140,000 deaths each year. It is important to be aware of symptoms, risk factors, and your family history on both your father’s and mother’s side of the family.
2. Ovarian cancer is known as “the silent killer,” because usually there are no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. If a woman experiences one or more of the following symptoms for longer than two weeks, it is important that she discuss them with her doctor.
– Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
– Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
– Abdominal or pelvic pain
– Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently
3. There is a 5-year survival rate. When diagnosed, almost half (46%) of women with ovarian cancer are still alive at least 5 years after diagnosis The survival rate varies greatly with the stage and age at which a woman is diagnosed. Women diagnosed when they are younger than 65 have a higher survival rate than older women. Most women diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer have a five-year survival rate of approximately 34%.
4. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage. Ovarian cancer is commonly diagnosed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. Women often delay seeking help from a doctor. This may be because the woman thinks her symptoms are due to her period, menopause, or indigestion. Doctors also often initially suspect less serious causes for the symptoms, but the frequency of symptoms should help them know when to consider ovarian cancer.
5. A pap smear will not detect it. Many women mistakenly believe a cervical smear test (or Pap test) will detect ovarian cancer. It does not. It detects pre-cancerous changes to cells of the cervix, which is treated much more successfully than ovarian cancer. To detect ovarian cancer, it is necessary to get a pelvic examination.
For more information visit Cancer.gov. In loving memory of Maria Sanchez.