Ovarian Cancer

When cancer starts in the ovaries, it is called ovarian cancer. All women are at risk for ovarian cancer; however, older women are more likely to be diagnosed than younger women. It is estimated that 90 percent of women who are diagnosed are over the age of 40, and the greatest number of ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 60.

Approximately 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

Ovarian cancer may cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding and/or discharge
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic or abdominal area 
  • Back pain
  • Bloating or feeling full quickly while eating
  • Change in bathroom habits such as urgency and frequency, constipation and diarrhea

Currently, there is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, and it can be very hard to identify ovarian cancer early. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are not always clear and may be hard to recognize, so it is very important to discuss any changes in your body that last for two weeks or longer with your physician.

There is no way to know who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. However, there are factors that increase the risk. Risk increases with age, menopause, a family history of ovarian, breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer, nulliparous (or never given birth), obesity, use of fertility or estrogen/hormonal medications and endometriosis.

Although there is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, risk can be lowered by using birth control for more than five years, tubal ligation, ovary removal, hysterectomy or giving birth.