Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: The Silent Killer Among Us!

Everyone knows that the color teal is absolutely beautiful. Okay, I may be a little bit biased. After all, teal just so happens to be my favorite color. If I hadn’t told you, chances are that if you visited my apartment and were faced with the teal curtains, the teal bedding, even the teal Keurig machine that I have sitting on my kitchen counter, you’d get the hint. I’ve always loved teal for the sense of calm and tranquility that it instills.

That said, this month, wearing teal has an even deeper purpose other than its beauty: September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

All color-related musings aside, ovarian cancer is an extremely serious disease. The American Cancer Society estimates for ovarian cancer in the United States for 2019 are:

       About 22,530 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

       About 13,980 women will die from ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. A woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 78. Her lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 108. (These statistics don’t count low malignant potential ovarian tumors.)

This cancer mainly develops in older women. About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older. It is more common in white women than African-American women.

The rate at which women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer has been slowly falling over the past 20 years.

Visit the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center for more key statistics.

There is no clear cause for ovarian cancer, but certain factors can definitely increase your risk. These factors include age, genetics (presence of a specific gene mutation), family history of ovarian or breast cancer, and previous medical conditions in the reproductive system. Additionally, the use of fertility treatments, estrogen hormone replacement therapy, and lack of pregnancy have also been shown to increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

One of the reasons that ovarian cancer is so deadly is that in its early stages, it rarely causes any symptoms. Unfortunately, this means that it often goes undetected until it’s too late, when the cancer has already spread to the pelvis and abdomen.

If that isn’t scary enough, the late stage symptoms that do begin to appear can very easily be mistaken for non-threatening conditions like bloating, swelling, weight loss, discomfort in pelvis, frequent urination, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome, to name a few. Consequently, even when late stage symptoms begin to appear, many women do not realize the danger. It is for that reason that ovarian cancer is often called a silent killer and for that reason that awareness and education about ovarian cancer needs to be a major priority.

In addition, diagnosing the disease is rather difficult, but can be done through various imaging tests, blood tests, and eventually, exploratory surgery to confirm the condition as well as to ascertain the stage of the cancer.

Typically, treatment plans are based on the type of ovarian cancer, its stage, and any special situations. Most women with ovarian cancer will have some type of surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on the type of ovarian cancer and how advanced it is, you might need other types of treatment as well, either before or after surgery, or sometimes both. As such, early detection is absolutely critical.

Your treatment plan will depend on many factors, including your overall health, personal preferences, and whether you plan to have children. Age alone isn’t a determining factor since several studies have shown that older women tolerate ovarian cancer treatments well.

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there’s anything you’re not sure about.

Some risk factors for ovarian cancer, like getting older or having a family history, cannot be changed. But women might be able to lower their risk slightly by avoiding other risk factors, for example, by staying at a healthy weight, or not taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause. See Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer to learn more. Using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) decreases the risk of developing ovarian cancer for average risk women and BRCA mutation carriers, especially among women who use them for several years. There is no sure way to totally prevent ovarian cancer, nonetheless, the best thing that you can do to protect yourself if you think that you might be at risk is to be checked regularly by your doctor.

Help spread awareness of ovarian cancer by being informed, educating others, and wearing lots of teal! You’ll look gorgeous doing it!

For additional resources, click here.

Link to: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html Excerpts for this blog were taken from National Women’s Health Network. Link to: https://nwhn.org/ovarian-cancer-awareness-month-the-silent-killer-among-us/.