September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

June 24th, 2018 - Posted to Gynecology

Ovarian cancer, the most fatal malignant disease of the female reproductive system, is annually responsible for the death of over 14,000 women in the United States. The lifetime risk of developing it is 1 in 79, whereas the average age of diagnosis is 63. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a time when non-profit organizations, survivors, caregivers, healthcare professionals, researchers, as well as communities, focus on spreading awareness of this unmerciful disease. The main purposes of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month are educating the public about the disease and raising funds to prompt further medical research.

Ovarian Cancer – The Silent Killer

Because the vast majority of women who suffer from ovarian cancer rarely experience symptoms before the tumor spreads to adjacent or even distant organs, the disease has rightfully been named the silent killer. Failing to identify ovarian cancer during the early stages implies a very poor prognosis – while stage I entails a 93% 5-year survival rate, stage IV is associated with a tragic 19% 5-year survival rate. Therefore, timely diagnosis is crucial for keeping ovarian cancer under control or even curing it.

Unfortunately, there are no reliable screening tests at the moment for ovarian cancer, which only promotes late detection. Contrary to popular belief, the Pap test cannot identify ovarian cancer, as it was designed to exclusively diagnose cervical cancer. For this reason, women should pay close attention to the following symptoms, which could indicate the early onset of ovarian cancer, and seek medical attention as soon as they notice one or more:

  • persistent bloating
  • nausea
  • changes in bowel movement
  • frequent indigestion
  • pressure in the lower back
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • urgent need to urinate
  • changes in menstruation
  • feeling full after eating small amounts of food
  • abdominal pain
  • unintentional weight loss
  • heartburn
  • pain during intercourse

By the end of 2018, roughly 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer are expected to arise throughout the United States. The demographic at highest risk for this disease pertains to women between the ages of 55 and 64. Nevertheless, ovarian cancer can strike at any time, depending primarily on the genetic makeup of the individual, as other risk factors have not been discovered so far.

What Lowers The Chances of Developing Ovarian Cancer?

While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown at the moment, several factors which decrease the chances of coming to suffer from it have been found by researchers. These refer to:

  • the use of oral contraceptives – women who take birth control medication were found to have a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those who do not
  • hysterectomy and tubal ligation – certain gynecologic surgeries may also decrease the susceptibility to ovarian cancer
  • giving birth – women who gave birth to a child are less prone to ovarian cancer
  • breastfeeding – studies found that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her chances of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer become

How Can I Participate in Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month?

If you would like to support women who suffer from ovarian cancer and raise awareness of this often deadly disease, there are numerous ways you can get involved, such as:

  • organize a fundraiser in your community and donate the money to a research foundation focusing on ovarian cancer, like Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance or National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
  • share educational material about the symptoms of ovarian cancer on social media
  • ask local media to provide coverage of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month during September
  • if you personally know someone who struggles with ovarian cancer, ask her to share her story so as to inspire other women and spread awareness of the disease

You can find reliable and up-to-date information about ovarian cancer which you can freely use on OvarianCancerAwareness.org.