September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, just like next month will be Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, unlike breast cancer, there are no screening tests for ovarian cancer and unfortunately, minimal early signs and symptoms. Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer as the symptoms that can appear are usually in the later stages of cancer growth; and in addition, even when those symptoms do appear, many women do not realize the danger and can easily mistake them for non-threatening conditions. Awareness and education about ovarian cancer is of utmost importance and needs to be a major priority!
Ovarian Cancer Facts
- Ovarian cancer is the second most common type of female reproductive cancer; in fact, more women die from ovarian cancer than from cervical and uterine cancer combined.
- Ovarian cancer accounts for only 3% of all cancers in women, but it causes more deaths each year than any other cancers of the female reproductive system (CDC, 2017).
- 1/78 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, with 70% diagnosed in advanced stages (American Cancer Society, 2019).
- Ovarian cancer generally presents at more advanced stages, has higher rates of reoccurrence, and poorer survival rates than other cancers.
- THERE IS NO EARLY DETECTION TEST FOR OVARIAN CANCER.
- There is no clear cause, but certain factors can increase risk of a woman developing ovarian cancer.
Signs & Symptoms
One of the major reasons that ovarian cancer is so deadly is that in its early stages, it rarely causes any signs or symptoms. Once symptoms are present, the cancer is typically more advanced, making treatment more difficult. Many women may have some symptoms but mistake them for “normal.” Any woman, especially middle aged or older, should be regularly counseled on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Pain or pressure in pelvic area
- Abdominal or back pain
- Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating
- Change in bathroom habits
Awareness is key! Women need to be counseled routinely on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer; hopefully leading to early detection and treatment! So, while we all recognize the pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s be sure to spend September wearing teal and raising awareness and education for ovarian cancer. Perhaps this silent killer can become more of a whisper!
American Cancer Society. (2019). Key Statistics for Ovarian Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (2017). Ovarian Cancer Epidemiology in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/provider-education/ovarian/epidemiology.htm
Slatnik, C. & Duff, E. (2015). Ovarian cancer: Ensuring early diagnosis. The Nurse Practitioner, 40(9). doi: 10.1097/01.NPR.0000450742.00077.a2
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (2019). Ovarian cancer including fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer, version 1.2019. Retrieved from https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/ovarian.pdf