Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.
Community Education Assistant
September is ovarian cancer awareness month! Did you know that ovarian cancer is the second most common cancer that affects the female reproductive system in the United States?
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer develops when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Ovarian cancer occurs in the cells of the ovaries, which are reproductive glands found only in women.
The ovaries are made up of three kinds of cells including epithelial, germ and stromal cells. Each of these cells can develop into cancerous tumors. The most common types of ovarian cancer include epithelial ovarian tumors, germ cell tumors, and ovarian stromal tumors.
Know the Risk Factors
The American Cancer Society lists several risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance of developing ovarian cancer including:
- Age – As you age your risk for developing ovarian cancer increases. Ovarian cancer rarely occurs in women under the age of 40 and almost half of all ovarian cancers affect women age 63 or older.
- Weight – If you are overweight or obese, you have a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer as well as other types of cancer.
- Age of Pregnancy – If you have children later in life (after age 35) or do not have a full-term pregnancy your risk for ovarian cancer increases.
- Hormone Replacement – If you take estrogen after menopause, there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer, especially if taken alone for at least five years.
- Family History – If your mother, sister or daughter has or has previously had ovarian cancer, you have a greater risk of developing it, too.
Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Common signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, pain in your belly, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly and urinary problems such as urgency or frequency. Symptoms are more likely to occur when the cancer has spread, however they can also occur in early-stage ovarian cancer.
These symptoms may be present in women who do not have ovarian cancer, so it’s important to pay attention to any symptoms that are out of the ordinary or begin to occur more frequently. Other symptoms of ovarian cancer may include fatigue, upset stomach, back pain, pain during sex, constipation, changes in your period, and swelling in the belly with weight loss.
Protection and Detection
The American Cancer Society recommends that women receive regular health exams including a pelvic exam for early detection of ovarian cancer. Women with ovarian cancer found in the early stages have a greater rate of survival than those found in the later stages.
If you experience any signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer, make sure to report them to your healthcare professional. If you’re at high risk for developing cancer, talk with your doctor – they may suggest testing to help find or rule out ovarian cancer.
For more information on ovarian cancer, contact your healthcare provide or call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.