10 things every woman should know

1. Although ovarian cancer is most common in women over the age of 50, it can affect women of any age. As women get older, their chance of developing ovarian cancer increases.

2. Women who have ovarian cancer often overlook symptoms because they are mild and not very noticeable. These symptoms may include:

  • Discomfort in the abdomen
  • Pelvic pain or swelling in the abdomen with no pain
  • Bloating or intestinal gas
  • A feeling of being constipated or unable to have a bowel movement

Other possible symptoms are:

  • A need to urinate or pee often
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea, not feeling hungry, not being able to eat, losing weight
  • Having a fever

Not all of these symptoms have to be present to have ovarian cancer.

3. If one member of your family had ovarian cancer, there is an increased risk of you getting it too. However, 9 out of 10 patients with ovarian cancer do not have anyone else in their family who have had ovarian cancer.

4. Women who used oral contraceptives, or the birth control pill have less of a chance of getting ovarian cancer. Alsowomen who have had several pregnancies are less likely to get ovarian cancer.

Women who never took the pill are 2 times as likely to get ovarian cancer as those who took the pill for more than 10 years.

The more children a woman has had, the less likely she is to get the disease.

5. In addition to family history, other risk factors include:

  • Being infertile or unable to have a baby.
  • Starting your period at an early age.
    (The normal age for beginning menstrual period is about 12 years old, and the usual age for stopping the period is about 50 years old.)
  • Having late menopause or stopping your periods at a late age.

6. There are many kinds of ovarian cancer. When a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the doctors look to see how far the disease has spread.

  • Stage 1 means it is just in the ovary or ovaries.
  • Stage 2 means the cancer has spread to the pelvis as well.
  • Stage 3 means the cancer has spread to the to abdomen.
  • Stage 4 means the cancer has spread to the liver.

By the time many women discover they have ovarian cancer, it is often at the 3rd or 4th stage. This happens because the symptoms are so mild in the early stages.

7. Ovarian cancer is a very serious disease.

9 out of 10 women who are diagnosed while the cancer is in stage 1, live.

Less than 2 out of 10 women survive when the cancer has spread to stages 3 or 4.

8. Inform your doctor if you have one or several of the above symptoms that continue for more than 3 weeks. Go back to your doctor and ask questions if your symptoms continue. Find a family doctor or general practitioner (GP) you can trust and that will support you.

9. Inform your doctor if you have had breast cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum, or cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer). You should also tell the doctor if anyone in your family has had ovarian cancer.

10. The Pap test does not show if a woman has ovarian cancer. Researchers are working on a test that will detect if a woman has ovarian cancer. They are improving the transvaginal ultrasound and two blood tests that show whether tumours are present on the ovaries. The blood tests are called the CA125 and LPA. Women who have a higher chance of getting ovarian cancer, should ask their doctor to do a bimanual rectovaginal examination during their regular annual checkup.