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Ovarian Cancer: Not Common, But Increasing with Age
Medically reviewed by Dr. Brad Campbell
A woman’s reproductive organs can be affected by five main types of cancer, identified by the location where it started: ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal and vulvar. This article looks at symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. A woman has two ovaries in her pelvis, located on either side of her uterus. They produce the eggs for reproduction as well as some female hormones. There is no simple, reliable test for ovarian cancer, in the way a Pap test can identify cervical cancer. Making it even more confusing for a woman, many of the symptoms are typical of other non-cancerous problems.
Signs & Symptoms
However, if these symptoms are new and occur daily for more than a few weeks, you should schedule a visit with your gynecologist:
- Pain or swelling in the area below your stomach and between your hip bones.
- Abnormal bleeding or discharge.
- Back pain.
- Feeling full after eating a small amount.
- Gas, bloating, or constipation.
- Sudden or frequent urge to urinate.
Most or Less at Risk
- MORE RISK
- Age is one risk factor. About two-thirds of ovarian cancers appear in women 55 or older.
- A woman with a sister or mother, who’s had ovarian cancer, has increased risk.
- Taking an estrogen replacement for 5 years or more. (Women who are treated with a different hormone therapy – progesterone – do not have increased risk.)
- LESS RISK
- Women, who’ve had multiple children at a young age, have a lower risk.
- Women who take birth control pills have lower risk.
Your Best Defense
“A woman’s best defense is a regular exam with her gynecologist to help identify the ovarian cancer,” says McLeod Gynecologist Dr. Brad Campbell. “Surgery by a Gynecologic Oncologist is the only cure. These specialists may only be found at academic medical centers. Surgery will probably be followed by chemotherapy. This therapy can be administered at a cancer center close to your home."
Sources include: McLeod Health, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance