Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Am I at risk for ovarian cancer?
- A woman’s lifetime risk is 1 in 72
- A woman’s risk increases with age
- Women of all ages are at risk, especially those with a family history of breast, colon or ovarian cancer
About 20 to 25 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a hereditary tendency to develop the disease. The most significant risk factor is an inherited genetic mutation in one of two genes: breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes are responsible for about 10 to 15 percent of all ovarian cancers. Another known genetic link is an inherited syndrome called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome). Women who have had children or taken birth control pills reduce their risk of ovarian cancer.
Talk to your doctor about your risk factors.
What symptoms should I look for?
- Urinary symptoms
- Bloating or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month and the symptoms are new or unusual for you. Experts suggest a combination pelvic/rectal exam, a CA-125 blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound. Additional symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. These symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are found as often in women who do not have the disease.
How to talk with your doctor
- Create a list of questions in advance and take notes during your appointment
- Bring a friend or family member with you for support and to help ask questions
- Be forthcoming and persistent about issues that concern you
Because the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can be subtle, it is important to listen to your body and be proactive in talking with your doctor about any concerns. Make notes about specific symptoms, including the intensity and frequency so you can report them accurately to your doctor. Try to state as clearly as you can any other changes in body functions, from sleep and bowel habits to other changes such as headaches. Mention lifestyle habits, even things you may not be proud of, such as smoking. Never hold back information, no matter how trivial you think it may be.