Ovarian Cancer: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatment

A woman doctor holds a model of the female reproductive system to explain aspects of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is a serious condition that affects almost 20,000 women in the U.S. every year. Luckily, understanding the risk factors, symptoms, early detection, and treatment options can make all the difference in promoting early diagnosis and improving survival rates. 

Read on for everything you need to know about ovarian cancer to empower you with knowledge and encourage proactive healthcare.

What is Ovarian Cancer? 

Ovarian cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and hormones. It is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. 

However, with regular well-woman exams, and awareness, we can increase the chances of early detection and successful treatment.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

While ovarian cancer can affect biological women of all ages, certain factors can increase the risk of developing this disease. These factors include:

  • Age: Women over 50 years are at a higher risk.
  • Family History: A family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer may elevate the risk.
  • Inherited Gene Mutations: There are a variety of gene mutations that can significantly increase the likelihood of ovarian cancer.
  • Personal History: Women who have had breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer in the past may be at increased risk.
  • Endometriosis: A condition where the tissue lining the uterus grows outside the uterus.
  • Obesity: Being overweight can increase the risk of various cancers, including ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive History: Women who have never been pregnant or have had infertility issues may be at a higher risk.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: Prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy may slightly increase the risk.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Early-stage ovarian cancer may not present any symptoms, or the symptoms can be vague and mistaken for other conditions. However, as the disease progresses, the following signs may appear:

  • Abdominal Bloating or Swelling: Feeling bloated or swollen frequently.
  • Pelvic Pain: Persistent pain in the pelvic region or lower abdomen.
  • Difficulty Eating or Feeling Full Quickly: Early satiety or difficulty eating normal-sized meals.
  • Urinary Urgency: Frequent or urgent need to urinate.
  • Changes in Bowel Routine: Consistent changes in bowel movements.
  • Fatigue: Unexplained and persistent fatigue.

It is essential to consult a healthcare professional if you experience any of these symptoms regularly, especially if they persist for more than two weeks.

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Early Detection

Early detection is crucial in improving ovarian cancer survival rates. Regular pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasounds, and blood tests can help detect any abnormalities in the ovaries. Genetic testing may be recommended for women with a family history of ovarian cancer or specific gene mutations.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment 

Treatment for ovarian cancer may involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The approach depends on the stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences.

Preventing Ovarian Cancer

While some risk factors for ovarian cancer are beyond our control, certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk:

  • Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular gynecological well-woman exams, and discuss your risk factors with your healthcare provider.
  • Healthy Diet: Embrace a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed foods and saturated fats.
  • Physical Activity: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being.
  • Eliminate Smoking: If you smoke, seek support to quit smoking, as it can reduce the risk of various cancers.
  • Oral Contraceptives: Some studies suggest that long-term use of oral contraceptives may reduce ovarian cancer risk.

Copperstate and Your Ovarian Health

At Copperstate OB/GYN, we are dedicated to women’s health and strive to provide the best care possible. Ovarian cancer is a serious concern, but with awareness, regular well-woman exams, and early detection, we can take significant steps toward early intervention and better outcomes. 

Our practice is recognized as one of the most progressive OB/Gyn groups in Tucson, Arizona. Our expert physicians offer a number of services focused on helping you feel your best. Together, we can prioritize your well-being and make informed decisions for a healthier future. 

Are you a patient of Copperstate OB/Gyn? Access your patient portal here, or share your experience with us on Google!