September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian Cancer is the fifth highest killer of women, killing over 14,000 people a year. Ovarian cancer is called the silent killer due to the difficulty of diagnosis in the early stages; more than 75 percent of cases will not be diagnosed until the cancer has metastasized. The best prevention is knowledge. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and prevention of ovarian cancer can help save your life. In honor of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Health & Wellmobile provides information every woman should know about ovarian cancer.
There are a few risk factors for developing ovarian cancer:
- Heredity: The greatest risk factor for developing ovarian cancer is family history. Your risk triples if you have a mother or sister that has had ovarian cancer. The younger your family member was at diagnosis, the higher your risk of developing the disease.
- Post-menopausal: Ovarian cancer can occur at any age, but most cases develop post-menopausal, with the greatest number of diagnosed cases occurring after age 65.
- Obesity: There is a correlation between obesity and ovarian cancer deaths, with the highest death rate being among the most obese.
- Infertility or the use of infertility drugs: Women who have had children, have breastfed, or have taken oral contraceptives are at a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those who do not have children or have used infertility drugs to assist in getting pregnant.
Ovarian Cancer is particularly dangerous because it is hard to detect, especially in the early stages. In fact, less than 20 percent of cases are diagnosed in the early, most treatable stage. Furthermore, the symptoms can be vague and easily mistaken for something less serious. The symptoms become more discernible as the cancer progresses.
Common symptoms include the following:
- Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly
- Abdominal or pelvic discomfort
- Urinary frequency or urgency
Currently, there is no scientific method to prevent ovarian cancer, but there are ways you can reduce your risk of developing the disease:
- Oral Contraceptives: Using birth control pills for at least 5 consecutive years reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The longer the oral contraceptives are used, the more the risk is reduced.
- Pregnancy and Breast Feeding: Having at least one child, especially before the age of 25, and breastfeeding could reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Surgical Prevention: Women who have a high risk of developing ovarian cancer and who are not of childbearing years can have certain surgical procedures that can greatly minimize their risk. These surgical procedures include tubal ligation, hysterectomy, and oophorectomy. Discuss all possible surgeries with your physician as all surgeries carry some risk.