September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in women. This is largely because early ovarian cancer often has no symptoms.
This cancer often goes undetected until it reaches advanced stages. It may not cause early signs or symptoms, and it is difficult to screen for the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Ovarian cancer is rare – about 1.3 percent of women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point in their life, according to data from the NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. An estimated 19,880 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 12,810 are expected to die from the disease in 2022.
But because it often goes untreated until the disease has advanced, the survival rate is low, with a five-year relative survival rate of 49.7 percent.
Risk factors for developing ovarian cancer include family history and the presence of inherited gene mutations. Some tests can detect mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers and some additional types of cancer. Other risk factors include the use of estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy and the use of fertility drugs.
Signs and Symptoms
The ovaries are small organs located on either side of the uterus that produces eggs and several hormones. Ovarian cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop near or near the outer layer of one or both ovaries.
It is essential to pay attention to your body and know what feels normal for you. Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any of the following signs and symptoms:
Pain or pressure in your hip or pelvic area.
Pain in your stomach or back.
Changes in bathroom habits, such as more frequent or less frequent urges to use the restroom.
Feeling full too quickly or having difficulty eating.
Several risk factors may increase your likelihood of ovarian cancer, including if you:
Are middle-aged or older.
Have a mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother who has had ovarian cancer.
I have never had children or have had trouble getting pregnant.
Have had breast, uterine, or colon cancer.
Reduce Your Risk
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer. The below recommendations may help manage or lower your risk of ovarian cancer.
Exercise and diet. Maintain a weekly exercise regimen and a healthy diet.
Healthy lifestyle. Avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breastfeed for a year or more, if you are able. Studies suggest that women who breastfeed may have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer.
Health care provider. Talk to your physician about your health history and other preventive strategies (e.g. diagnostic tests, surgery, oral contraceptives, etc.).
HERSTORY Makes History15, September 2022
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