Each Year over 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In 2016, more than 22,000 will receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and 14,000 will die from it. Learn more about ovarian cancer, the signs and symptoms and when you should see a physician. 

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries and occurs in the ovarian cells. The ovaries are two reproductive organs that produce eggs. They also produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Caner begins when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply out of control and form a tumor. 

What are Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer? 

  • In most cases, symptoms of ovarian cancer in the early stages of the disease are not very apparent. This is why ovarian cancer tends to be diagnosed in the late stages. 
  • There is no routine exam for ovarian cancer. Make sure you inform your doctor if there is a family history of ovarian cancer. Also, make sure you adhere to routine gynecologic care and annual pelvic exams. This is the best way to screen!
  • Ovaries are near the bladder and intestines. This is why gastrointestinal symptoms may the first to occur. 
  • Symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
    • Continuous abdominal bloating, indigestion, or nausea
    • Changes in appetite, often a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner than normal
    • Feelings of pressure or pain in the pelvis or lower back
    • Having to urinate more frequently or urgently
    • Feeling tired or feeling low on energy
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Painful sex
    • Changes in menstruation
    • Symptoms of ovarian cancer overlap with many other diseases or problems. However, rather than a gradual onset, symptoms of ovarian cancer often begin to occur suddenly. Symptoms like the ones above are also very consistent and happen almost every day.  Finally, the symptoms of ovarian cancer feel very different from your routine, infrequent, and typically normal digestive or menstrual problems. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often more painful or severe and don’t usually get better as more typical digestive or menstrual problems do.

What is an Ovarian Cyst?

  • Ovarian Cysts are a fluid filled sac that develops on one or both ovaries due to ovarian cancer. They may be common during a woman’s childbearing years or with a menstrual cycle, but in post-menopausal women have a higher risk of cancer. Remember, symptoms of benign ovarian cysts are similar to symptoms of ovarian cancer. See your doctor for an evaluation if you think you have an ovarian cyst.
  • Symptoms of ovarian cysts include:
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain shortly before beginning or after your period
  • Pressure, swelling, or pain in the back abdomen
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder
  • Painful sex  
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Nausea or vomiting

Are There Risk Factors For Ovarian Cancer?

  • The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. However, these factors have been found to increase your risk:
  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Genetic mutations of certain genes that are associated with ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of breast, uterine, or colon cancer
  • Obesity
  • Use of fertility drugs of hormone therapies
  • No history of being pregnant
  • History of endometriosis
  • Early onset of periods
  • Late menopause

When Should I See a Physician?  

  • Ovarian cancer isn’t easy to detect because there is not a routine diagnostic screening for ovarian cancer and because your ovaries are deep in the abdominal cavity, so you are less likely to feel a tumor. 
  • Therefore, it’s important to contact your doctor if you are seeing unusual or persistent symptoms as soon as you can. The outlook for ovarian cancer often depends on how soon the cancer is detected. 

The good news: The survival rate is higher than 90% when the cancer is found early and treated quickly. See your doctor as soon as you notice unusual or persistent signs!