This year in the United States, more than 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed, and approximately 14,000 women will die of the disease.3 About one in 75 women will get a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in her lifetime, with the average age of onset at 63.4 However, the risk is much higher for women who have an inherited predisposition to this disease. Approximately 24% of ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited gene mutation 1,2 that, depending on the gene involved, predisposes these women to have as high as a 63% chance of developing ovarian cancer during their lifetime (compared to the average woman’s risk of 1.4%).

Take this brief 1-minute quiz to help you determine whether you should be further evaluated for either Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome or Lynch syndrome.

What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages. This is partly due to the fact that the ovaries, two small, almond-shaped organs on either side of the uterus, are deep within the abdominal cavity.

The following are often identified by women as some of the sentinel signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly

  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

Secondary symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

If symptoms are new and persist for more than two weeks, it is recommended that a woman see her doctor, and a gynecologic oncologist before surgery if cancer is suspected.

When the symptoms are persistent, when they do not resolve with normal interventions (like diet change, exercise, laxatives, rest) it is imperative for a woman to see her doctor. Persistence of symptoms is key. Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only approximately 19 percent of ovarian cancer is diagnosed in the early stages. Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form.


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