Cancer, in general, can be alarming. With a classification as the fifth largest in gynecological deaths in women, ovarian cancer is not only alarming, but has also been labeled as the “silent killer.” September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Let’s shed some light on the symptoms and risk factors of this particular cancer.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant tumors develop in the ovaries and spread to the abdomen and pelvis. It is called the “silent killer” because the early symptoms are often mistaken for less serious conditions, as they are very non-specific, unalarming symptoms. If the cancer is caught in the early stages, before symptoms present themselves, treatment is often more successful and less strenuous. If diagnosed later, when symptoms are presenting themselves, it’s often increasingly more difficult to treat. The survival rate, at this point, can drop to as low as 17%.

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?  

Because the symptoms of ovarian cancer present themselves in later stages, it’s important to be aware of what they are so that treatment can be more successful. The symptoms may be similar to those of common health problems such as an ovarian cyst, or can even mimic signs of an aging woman. Be aware of the symptoms and talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms to see if you’re at risk of developing ovarian cancer.

  • Frequent Urination
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Unexpected Weight Loss
  • Trouble Eating
  • Discomfort in the Pelvic Area
  • Fatigue
  • Upset Stomach
  • Back Pain
  • Pain During Sex

Who is at Risk? 

Some of the risks of developing ovarian cancer are lifestyle choices, while some are just because of genetic makeup.

You are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer if you:

  • Are over the age of 63
    • Nearly half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over this age, but that doesn’t mean younger women haven’t been diagnosed.
  • Have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
    • If there is a history of either of these diseases in your family, you are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer and actually considered “high risk.”
  • Are a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation
  • Are of Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish descent
    • Research has been done to show that women of these descents are more likely to be carrying the BRCA genetic mutations, which ultimately puts them at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Are obese, a cigarette smoker, or if you have a poor diet
    • These lifestyle factors are all linked to increasing the risk of developing the disease.
  • Environment
    • Studies have shown that using products containing talcum powder near the genital area regularly increases your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against baby powder and vaginal deodorant companies, as these products once contained talcum powder and these women are now being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

If you believe that you are at risk of developing ovarian cancer, talk to your physician as soon as possible. Catching the cancer in its earliest stages is when treatment is most successful and the survival rate is the highest.

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