In recognition of national Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September, the Livingston Health Department is sharing information about this type of cancer, which will affect 1 out of 78 women at some point during their life.
Ovarian cancer begins in either the ovaries or an area near the ovaries, such as the fallopian tubes. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer tend to be more noticeable when the cancer has reached a later stage; therefore, ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect in its early stages when it is easiest to treat.
While the true cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer in women. Risk factors include:
- age: about half of all women who get ovarian cancer are over the age of 63, though younger women can get ovarian cancer, too.
- having given birth to your first child after age 35 or never having given birth.
- a family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer.
- genetics: both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are known to increase the risk for breast cancer. Testing can be done to determine if you have either gene.
- personal medical history of breast, uterine, or colon cancer in the past.
In most cases, ovarian cancer is not detected until it has advanced to a later stage. Some women don’t begin to have more noticeable symptoms until the cancer has progressed, but symptoms can begin earlier. Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- bloating and/or pain in the abdomen or pelvic area
- difficulty eating or feeling full too soon
- back pain
- needing to urinate often or feeling an urgent need to urinate
- changes in vaginal bleeding (heavier or irregular periods)
If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above for two weeks or longer, talk to your health care provider about it. Any of these symptoms could be caused by something other than cancer and should be discussed with your doctor. Your health care provider can help determine the cause of your symptoms and what treatment might be needed.
For more educational information, contact Jessica Kelly, MPH, CHES, Health Educator for the Livingston Health Department, at 973-535-7961 ext. 227.