The Teaching Doctor Explains the Worst Killer of Women: Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer is bad.  In most cases, there is no known cause. There are often no symptoms. There is little to do to prevent it. It is usually detected late and the prognosis is usually bad.

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer. About 90% of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40.  Most cases occur in women after menopause.

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in women.  The fifth leading cause of cancer death in US women.

There are five big risk factors for ovarian cancer.

  1. Having an inherited gene mutation, like Angelina Jolie, BRCA 1 or BRCA 2.
  2. Any woman with a family member with ovarian cancer is at higher risk for developing ovarian cancer.
  3. If you have had breast cancer, colon or rectal cancer, or uterine cancer, your risk of ovarian cancer is increased.
  4. Your risk of ovarian cancer increases as you age. It usually occurs after menopause but it can occur at any age.
  5. Women who have never given birth to a baby are at higher risk for ovarian cancer.

There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer. But there things you can do to reduce your risk.

  1. Take hormones such as birth control which prevents ovulation.  There is a theory that if you decrease the amount of times that you ovulate, or release an egg from your ovary, you can decrease your risk of ovarian cancer.
  2. Having a baby.
  3. Women who breastfeed for a year or more may have a modestly reduced risk of ovarian cancer.

It is important to talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.

Ovarian cancer may cause one or more of these signs and symptoms:

  1. Vaginal bleeding or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you.
  2. Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area
  3. Back pain.
  4. Bloating in your lower abdomen
  5. Feeling full quickly while eating
  6. A change in your bathroom habits

Pay attention to your body.  You need to know what is normal for you and if there is a change, notify your doctor immediately.


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