All women are at risk for developing ovarian cancer, no matter your age. The risk increases around 40, however, and continues to increase with age from there. Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women in the United States. Early detection is critical in successful treatment of the disease.
1. Age and Risk Factors
In addition to getting older, there are a few risk factors to keep in mind. If you have had other types of cancer, particularly gynecologic cancer, your chance of having ovarian cancer are increased. If any close relatives have had it, you are also at risk. Those of an Eastern European or Jewish background have a higher rate of ovarian cancer than others. If you have ever had difficulty getting pregnant, you may be at risk. If any of these apply to you, speak with your doctor about your chances of contracting ovarian cancer.
There are several symptoms to watch out for that may indicate ovarian cancer. These include vaginal bleeding, pain or pressure in the abdominal or pelvic area, back pain, persistent bloating, feeling full more quickly while eating, having to pee more often or more urgently. These symptoms are often caused by other, less severe conditions. No matter what is causing them, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of these. If you do have ovarian cancer, detecting it and treating it quickly leads to a much higher survival rate.
It is important for you to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Only you can really know what is normal for you. This is especially true in your eating and bathroom habits. It does not matter what is normal for other women. If you notice yourself having to pass urine more frequently than you are used to, it could be a sign that something is not right.
3. How to Lower Your Risk
If you have used birth control for a long period of time, it reduces your risk of getting ovarian cancer. Getting your tubes tied or having a hysterectomy also lowers your chances. If you have given birth you are at less of a risk. If ovarian cancer is detected, your doctor may recommend removing one or both of your ovaries in order to prevent the cancer from spreading to the surrounding tissue.
It is important to remember that a Pap test is used to test for cervical cancer. It will not detect ovarian cancer. Rectovaginal pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasounds, and CA-125 blood tests are used to check for ovarian cancer. You should speak to your doctor about getting one of these tests if you have detected any of the above symptoms in yourself, you have had another form of cancer, or a close relative has been treated for ovarian cancer.
If the tests find that you do have ovarian cancer, your doctor can recommend you to a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in this type of cancer. With early detection, successful treatment is not unlikely.