Wellness & Prevention
Ovarian cancer has been called the “silent killer” because early symptoms are so vague and non-specific that ovarian cancer was usually advanced before it was properly diagnosed. Today more is known about symptoms that may indicate a need for earlier physician intervention. While ovarian cancer occurs most commonly in older women, with about half of all cases occurring in women 63 years and older, it can occur in women of any age. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
No cancer can be entirely prevented; however you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing the disease or finding it early.
Risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors. Researchers have discovered several specific factors that may impact a woman’s likelihood of developing epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common type.
Age – the risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age.
Obesity – various studies suggest that obese women (those with a body mass index of at least 30) have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Reproductive history – women who have been pregnant and carried it to term have a lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who have not. The risk goes down wth each full-term pregnancy. Breastfeeding may lower the risk even further.
Birth control – women who have used oral contraceptives have a lower risk of ovarian cancer. The risk is lower the longer the pills are used and the lower risk continues for many years after the pill is stopped.
Family history – women who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer are at increased risk. Increased risk for ovarian cancer does not have to come from your mother’s side of the family – it can also come from your father’s side. Up to 10 percent of ovarian cancers result from an inherited tendency to develop the disease.
Learn more about our cancer genetic risk assessment services and genetic counseling.