What is ovarian cancer? Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells are present in the ovaries, the two small, almond-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus.
Every year nearly 250,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer; 150,000 women die yearly from the disease. In women age 35-74 ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths. Over their lifetime, one in 72 women will develop ovarian cancer. In Arkansas, approximately 200 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year with 150 deaths occurring yearly.
Difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages, symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and common. Ovarian cancer signs include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and feeling the need to urinate urgently. Often, weight gain, weight loss, fatigue and back pain are also experienced.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include having a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, increasing age, obesity, smoking, increased frequency of ovulation, and hormone therapy after menopause.
What about prevention? The use of birth control pills can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Compared with women who never used oral contraceptive, those who used oral contraceptives for 3 years or more have about a 30%-50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. Also, having one or more children, particularly before the age of 25, and breast feeding may decrease a woman’s risk.
Treatment for ovarian cancer is initially surgery followed by chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy. Unfortunately, most women are diagnosed at a later stage of the cancer because of its vague symptoms. This fact contributes to the high death rate for ovarian cancer.
Women who experience any of the symptoms for more than 3-4 weeks should visit with their doctor. To learn more about how to get involved locally, visit the Arkansas Ovarian Cancer Coalition River Valley Chapter’s website www.arvocc.com and consider attending their annual Teal Night in Tahiti fundraiser held Saturday, August 16, from 6pm-10pm at the Fort Smith Convention Center.