Ovarian Cancer

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided to our readers regarding these diseases is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  We strongly encourage our readers to use this information only as a preliminary resource, and we disclaim any liability for the decisions made by anyone based on this information. 

Statement About “Women”: RSP brings an expansive definition to the word “women.” Thus, our definition includes transgender women, cisgender women, gender queer, and gender non-conforming people.

Women have two ovaries that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries make female hormones and produce eggs. Ovarian cancer develops from cells found in the ovaries that become malignant and grow out of control. It is the deadliest form of cancer affecting the female reproductive system.  Ovarian cancer accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women; however, it causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer in the U.S.

Over 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are reported each year in the US–resulting in over 15,000 deaths.  Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer.  It ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women.

Who Gets Ovarian Cancer?

According to the CDC, all women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to be affected by this disease than younger women. About 90% of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40 years of age, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older.

Prevalence of ovarian cancer in black women

White women are more likely to die of ovarian cancer than any other group. Black women have the second highest rate of deaths from ovarian cancer, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native women and Asian/Pacific Islander women. Black women are less likely to receive the appropriate diagnosis, treatment, referral, surgery, radiation, and hormone treatments they need for this type of cancer. 

Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer may cause one or more of these signs and symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal

  • Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area (the area below the stomach and between the hip bones)

  • Back pain

  • Bloating in the area below your stomach, which swells or feels full

  • Feeling full quickly while eating

  • A change in one’s bathroom habits, such as having to pass urine very frequently, constipation, or diarrhea.

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed too late when treatments may not be as successful. There are no early screening tests for ovarian cancer.  Medical experts state that symptoms, such as bloating, pelvic pain, an urgent need to urinate, fatigue and an upset stomach, can be vague and mistaken for other conditions.  In 2011, The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition reported that doctors initially misdiagnosed two-thirds of the women surveyed.

Most risks factors for ovarian cancer are still unknown. Doctors/researchers believe that endometriosis, a family history of ovarian cancer, and increased age, are factors that may contribute to ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society states that obesity and poor diet can increase the risk as well

When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective!

Presidential Proclamation--National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

In 2010, former President Barack Obama declared September National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and pledged his support for increased awareness and scientific research.

“While we have made great strides in the battle against ovarian cancer, this disease continues to claim more lives than any other gynecologic cancer.  During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we honor all those lost to and living with ovarian cancer, and we renew our commitment to developing effective screening methods, improving treatments, and ultimately defeating this disease.”

Read more at the official White House website.