Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Published: 20 Mar 2019

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in the UK.  Please share this blog to spread the word of the signs – because whether you’re based in the UK or anywhere else in the world, it’s important be aware of what is sometimes termed the ‘silent killer’. You could save a life!

Did you know that most women do not know much about ovarian cancer and less than a third are confident they know what the symptoms are? And did you know that nearly half of doctors mistakenly believe symptoms only present in the later stages of ovarian cancer! 

A woman’s chance of surviving ovarian cancer for five years or more doubles from just 46 per cent to more than 90 per cent if caught in its earlier states – so make sure you know what to watch out for.

The facts

Although figures and statistics do vary slightly from country to country, here are some average ones…

These are the reasons why it is so important to arm yourself with the facts and help educate others

The symptoms

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are persistent and frequent, you will usually be experiencing symptoms more than 12 times a month. 

They include:

Occasionally there can be other symptoms:

If you are experiencing these symptoms in combination or on a regular basis, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Diagnosing ovarian cancer

Tests and procedures used to diagnose ovarian cancer include:

If the tests confirm that you do have ovarian cancer, your doctor will use information from your tests and procedures to assign your cancer a stage. The stages of ovarian cancer are indicated using Roman numerals ranging from I to IV, with the lowest stage indicating that the cancer is confined to the ovaries. By stage IV, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.

Treating ovarian cancer

Patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer will usually be given a combination of surgery and chemotherapy treatments:

Factors that increase your risk of ovarian cancers

Researchers have listed several risk factors that might increase a woman's chance of developing ovarian cancer.  These are …

  1. Getting older - The risk of developing ovarian cancer gets higher with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women 63 years of age or older.
  2. Being overweight or obese - Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of developing many cancers and women with a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or more may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Obesity may also affect the overall survival of a woman with ovarian cancer.
  3. Having children later or never having a full-term pregnancy - Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 35 or who never carried a pregnancy to term have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
  4. Using fertility treatment - Fertility treatment with in vitro fertilization (IVF) seems to increase the risk of the type of ovarian tumors known as "borderline" or "low malignant potential". Other studies, however, have not shown an increased risk of invasive ovarian cancer with fertility drugs. If you are taking fertility drugs, you should discuss the potential risks with your doctor.
  5. Taking hormone therapy after menopause - Women using estrogens after menopause have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk seems to be higher in women taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) for at least 5 to 10 years. The increased risk is less certain for women taking both estrogen and progesterone.
  6. Having a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer - Ovarian cancer can run in families. Your ovarian cancer risk is increased if your mother, sister, or daughter has (or has had) ovarian cancer. The risk also gets higher the more relatives you have with ovarian cancer. Increased risk for ovarian cancer can also come from your father's side. Family history of some other types of cancer such as colorectal and breast cancer is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. This is because these cancers can be caused by an inherited mutation (change) in certain genes that cause a family cancer syndrome that increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
  7. Having a family cancer syndrome - About 5 to 10% of ovarian cancers are a part of family cancer syndromes resulting from inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes.
  8. Having had breast cancer - If you have had breast cancer, you might also have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. There are several reasons for this. Some of the reproductive risk factors for ovarian cancer may also affect breast cancer risk. The risk of ovarian cancer after breast cancer is highest in those women with a family history of breast cancer. A strong family history of breast cancer may be caused by an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, which is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors.

If you’ve been affected by ovarian cancer, or any other type of cancer, join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group where there are thousands of people offering support and advice.