Most ovarian cancers develop after a woman turns 63. This type of cancer is rare before menopause, according to the American Cancer Society. About 3 percent of all cancers in women are ovarian cancers, but some good news is that the rate of ovarian cancer has been falling since 1990. As with any type of cancer, early detection is key. If ovarian cancer is detected before the cancer spreads from the ovary, the survival rate is 93 percent, but only 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found that early.
Risk factors can increase your chances of getting a disease. If you have risk factors for ovarian cancer, it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it, and conversely, women with no risk factors develop ovarian cancer. That’s why every woman should be checked for ovarian cancer, especially women with one or more risk factors. Ovarian cancer risk factors are: being older than age 63; being obese; never having had a child; having a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer; having had breast cancer.
Doctors and researchers don’t know how to prevent ovarian cancer, but they have discovered ways you can reduce your risk. If you have family members or relatives who have or have had ovarian cancer, ask your doctor whether you should use oral contraceptives. Birth control pills decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer by about 50 percent, especially if you have used them for more than five years, according to the American Cancer Society. Tubal ligation and hysterectomy both reduce the risks of ovarian cancer, but you should only have these procedures for valid medical reasons.
Unfortunately, no early screening tests, such as the mammogram to detect breast cancer, are available to lower the number of ovarian cancer deaths. There are two screening tests, transvaginal sonography and CA-125, but doctors don’t yet know how helpful these tests are, according to the American Cancer Society. At this point, the best early screening procedure is to get a regular pelvic exam, where the doctor feels your ovaries and uterus. Note that the Pap test to detect cervical cancer is not a test for ovarian cancer. You can also have genetic testing to determine whether you have the gene mutation in BRCA1 and BRCA2. If so, your risk for developing ovarian cancer increases. The best solution to prevent ovarian cancer if you have this mutation is to have your ovaries removed, according to the New York Times Health Guide.
Certain symptoms may indicate ovarian cancer. Get prompt attention if you experience abdominal swelling or bloating, abdominal pain or pelvic pressure, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly or urinary urgency. Usually, these symptoms are not due to ovarian cancer, but if these symptoms are severe or if the symptoms continue daily for a few weeks, see a gynecologist immediately.
If you have ovarian cancer, you will have surgery to remove the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. The surgeon also examines the lymph nodes and tissues in the abdomen and the pelvis. Women who use a specialist in gynecologic oncology may have higher success rates. After surgery, it is common to have chemotherapy to treat any remaining cancer. After chemotherapy treatment, you’ll have physical exams every two to four months for two years, and then every six months for three years, and then yearly exams.