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Protect Yourself from the Silent Killer – Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer can happen in one or both of a woman’s ovaries.  It is also known as the “silent killer” because it usually does not cause substantial signs or symptoms until it is too late. Although rare, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system since it is usually diagnosed at a late stage.

There is currently no recommended screening test to detect ovarian cancer in women of average risk level. Nevertheless, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from this silent killer.

Know your risks.

Age is a common risk factor for all cancers. Most cases of ovarian cancer happen in women after menopause.  Several other factors can also increase a woman’s risk for the cancer:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer
  • Genetic mutation (abnormality) related to ovarian cancer/breast cancer/colon cancer/uterine cancer
  • Personal history of breast,colorectal (colon), or cervical cancer, or
  • Obesity
  • Having never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant.
  • Endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body).
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Pay attention to the changes in your body.

Many symptoms of ovarian cancer can also be caused by other less serious conditions. “If you have any of these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks, and they can’t be explained by other more common conditions, talk to your doctor right away,” said Dr. Gail Bauchman, Family Medicine Physician at the OB/GYN department of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center:

  • Bloating or abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Changes in menstrual pattern
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Increase urinary urgency and frequency
  • Feeling full quickly during meals
  • Indigestion or constipation

Take preventive measures.

Although routine screening of ovarian cancer is not recommended for the general public, diagnostic tests are available for women who are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer or those who are at a higher risk. Inform your doctor if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above.

Several lifestyle factors have been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer including

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Using birth control pills – the longer the use the greater the risk reduction
  • Breastfeeding
  • Some at higher risk women have chosen to have their fallopian tubes tied and ovaries removed after they are done having children

Regardless of your risk level, see a gynecologist for routine check ups. Talk to your doctor about any abnormal changes you have experienced and what preventive measures are suitable for you. You can make an appointment at our OB/GYN Department by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan or (718) 886-1287 for Queens, or by visiting our OB/GYN webpage.

This post is made possible with funding from the NYC Council.

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Know Your Risks for Ovarian Cancer

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All women are at risk for ovarian cancer – and it is too often caught too late. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, there are effective treatments. Here is what you need to know about ovarian cancer, and how you can detect ovarian cancer early.

Detect ovarian cancer early

Ovarian cancer can develop in one or both ovaries. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs on both sides of a woman’s uterus. Many women do not know they have cancer until it spreads beyond the ovary. However, if you detect ovarian cancer at an early stage, you can increase your chance of survival. To detect cancer early, learn about the risk factors, and go for routine gynecological exams.

cervical cancer

Know the risk factors of ovarian cancer

A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting a disease. Some common risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

Age is a risk factor you cannot change. As you get older, your chance of developing ovarian cancer increases.

Family history is also a risk factor you cannot change. If you have a relative who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer or breast cancer, your chance of developing ovarian cancer increases.

Cancer history is when you have you have a history of other cancers, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or cervical cancer. Having a cancer history increases your chance of developing ovarian cancer.

No pregnancies throughout your lifetime will impact the hormones in your body. Not giving birth may increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Other risks, such as having endometriosis (a condition where tissues from the uterus grows somewhere else in the body) or eating diets high in fat, may also increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Reduce your risk

There are no known ways to prevent ovarian cancer. However, lower rates of ovarian cancer have been founded in women who:

  • Take birth control pills
  • Give birth
  • Breastfeed after giving birth.
  • Have had their tubes tied (tubal ligation) or their uterus removed (hysterectomy)
  • Have had both ovaries removed.

Know the symptoms of ovarian cancer

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pain in the area below your stomach and between your hop bones
  • Back Pain
  • Bloating, when the area below your stomach swells or feels full
  • Feeling full quickly while eating
  • Frequent urination

Detect ovarian cancer

While there are not any screening tests available for detecting ovarian cancer, self-awareness is very important. Pay attention to your body, and know what is normal for you. Talk to your doctor about any changes in your body that are not normal. Your doctor may further exam these changes to determine the cause. Be sure to schedule routine GYN checkups with your doctor. This way your doctor will be able to monitor the changes in your body.

Talk your primary care provider and your gynecologist about your risk for ovarian cancer, and what steps you can take to lower your risk. You can make an appointment at our women’s health department by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan or (718) 886-1287 for Queens, or by visiting our women’s health webpage.

Download this in PDF form here.

This post is made possible with funding from the NYC Council.