Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of death from cancer, following lung, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among all gynecological cancers. The estimated number of new cases of ovarian cancer in 2012 in the USA is 22,280. Of these, 15,500 women will die from the disease. Ovarian cancer is more prevalent in Caucasian women than in any other race.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
The early warning signs of ovarian cancer can be confused with other illnesses, usually benign. When the following signs and symptoms are unusual for you and/or last longer than two weeks, see your doctor:
• Abdominal bloating (a feeling of fullness and swelling) in the area below your stomach and between your hips.
• Abdominal pain or discomfort in the same area.
• Any bleeding from your vagina, especially if you are postmenopausal.
• Back pain.
• Frequent and/or urgent need to urinate.
• Lack of energy.
• Pain during sexual intercourse.
• Unusual vaginal discharge.
Can I prevent ovarian cancer?
We still have no way to prevent ovarian cancer, although some things appear to lower your chances of acquiring it, such as:
• Having your tubes tied, ovaries removed, or a hysterectomy.
• Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
• Use of birth control pills for more than five years.
Are there any screening tests available?
There are currently no valid screening tests to diagnose early ovarian cancer. The protein CA-125 is clinically approved for following the response to treatment and predicting prognosis after treatment. It is especially useful for detecting the recurrence of ovarian cancer. The key problems in using the CA-125 test as a screening tool are its lack of sensitivity and inability to detect early-stage cancers. The goal of many cancer biologists is to develop a test that would be employed to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage, i.e., before the cancer spreads outside the ovary.
Can ovarian cancer be hereditary?
Absolutely. Ten percent of all cases of ovarian cancer are hereditary. Most hereditary cases are related to mutations in two genes–BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Approximately 10 percent of ovarian cancers and three-to-five percent of breast cancers are due to one or both mutations. This is commonly called the Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOCS), an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome. It is characterized by many family members having breast or ovarian cancer, or both; both cancers in one family member, and early-age onset of breast cancer. Having the mutation increases your risk but does not mean you will acquire ovarian cancer. Before you consider genetic testing, be aware of all of the psychological, physical, and financial implications. Genetic testing for the HBOCS in women younger than 21 years should generally be deferred.
This information is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon your medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best treatment option.
For more information:
• American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• National Institutes of Health