Why Every Woman Should Educate Themselves About Ovarian Cancer (And How)

Why Every Woman Should Educate Themselves About Ovarian Cancer (And How)

This guest blog post was written in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.

Sometimes referred to as the “silent killer,” ovarian cancer will take the lives of approximately 14,000 women in the United States in 2019 alone.

When detected early (Stage 1-Stage 1C), five-year survival rates are actually fairly high, at 85-90%. When detected in later stages, these rates drops drastically to 17-39%. Unfortunately, according to the American Cancer Society, only about twenty percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in early stages.

This is because the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often nondescript and can be easily mistaken for other conditions; such as IBS or UTIs. Although these symptoms can be subtle, it's important to understand what they are and how to investigate if you're experiencing them.

"Only 20% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in early stages".

Ovarian Cancer

What are the Symptoms?

If you take a look at the symptoms below, you will realize why ovarian cancer is misdiagnosed so frequently.

The most important thing to note is that with ovarian cancer, these symptoms will typically represent a deviation from how you feel normally. It is recommended that you should consult with your doctor if you experience some (or all) of these symptoms almost every day for two weeks straight.

These are the symptoms most commonly associated with ovarian cancer.
      • Abdominal Bloating
      • Abdominal/Pelvic Pain
      • Frequent and/or Urgent Need to Urinate
      • Difficulty Eating, or Feeling Full Quickly
      • Lack of Appetite

These symptoms can be indicative of other diseases, but are also often present with ovarian cancer.  

      • Change in Bowel Habits (Diarrhea or Constipation)
      • Change in Menstrual Periods
      • Bleeding Between Periods (or vaginal bleeding AFTER menopause)
      • Weight Gain or Loss
      • Back Pain
      • Pain During Intercourse
      • Fatigue/Tiredness

What are the Risk Factors?


Most women have approximately a 1-in-70 chance of developing ovarian cancer.

If you have the following risk factors, you are at the aforementioned risk level, which is similar to that of the general population of women:

      • Age (according to Memorial Sloan Kettering, the average age of diagnosis is 62)
      • Never Having Had Children
      • Endometriosis
      • A History of Infertility
      • Use of Assisted Reproductive Therapies (IVF)

If you have the following risk factors, you are at an increased risk:

      • A Family History of Breast or Ovarian Cancer
      • A Personal History of Breast Cancer Before Age 40
      • Two or More Close Relatives Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer
      • Both Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage and a Personal History of Breast Cancer Before Age 40
If you have one (or more) of these genetic mutations, you are at high risk:
      • A BRCA1 or BRCA2 Gene Mutation: Individuals with the BRCA1 gene mutation have a 40-60 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 85. Individuals with the BRCA2 gene mutation have a 16-27 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer by old age.
      • Lynch Syndrome: Lynch Syndrome is a genetic disorder that increases an individual’s risk of developing a number of different cancers; and individuals with this syndrome have a 6-8 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer.  

Experiencing Symptoms?

If you notice that you are experiencing the symptoms described above almost every day for more than two weeks, consult with your primary care physician or gynecologist.

If you are not experiencing symptoms, but you fall under the increased risk or high risk categories, you should also consult with your care team to schedule regular screenings.

Your physician will likely:

      1. Perform a Pelvic Exam
      2. Perform a Transvaginal Ultrasound
      3. Perform a Blood Test for CA-125 (a serum marker in your blood that can be present if you have ovarian cancer)


Want to learn more about ovarian cancer? Check out these resources!.


    • Gynecologic Cancer Symptom Diary: The CDC created this handy symptom diary that you can utilize to track your symptoms over the course of two weeks. All you need to get started is access to a printer and a pen!
    • Color Genomics: We recommend consulting with a physician regarding any family history of cancer that may lead you to suspect some sort of genetic component. However, in the event that you want to seek genetic testing on your own, Color Genomics has an at-home test that analyzes thirty genes associated with various cancers.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but could be a good place to start to find out more information about ovarian cancer, or receive support if you are diagnosed.
    • Bright Pink: Bright Pink helps to save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and manage their health proactively.
    • Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE): FORCE's Mission is to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast, ovarian, and related cancers.
    • HERA Ovarian Cancer Foundation: The mission of the HERA Ovarian Cancer Foundation is to eliminate ovarian cancer by promoting Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness.
    • National Ovarian Cancer Coalition: The mission of the NOCC is to save lives by fighting tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer and to improve the quality of life for Survivors.
    • Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance: Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) is the leading organization in the world fighting ovarian cancer from all fronts, including in the lab and on Capitol Hill, while supporting women and their families.
    • SHARE: SHARE is a national nonprofit that supports, educates, and empowers women affected by breast, ovarian, or metastatic breast cancer, with a special focus on medically underserved communities. Our mission is to connect these women with the unique support of survivors and peers, creating a community where no one has to face breast or ovarian cancer alone.
    • Sharsheret: Sharsheret, a national non-profit organization, improves the lives of Jewish women and families living with or at increased genetic risk for breast or ovarian cancer through personalized support and saves lives through educational outreach. While our expertise is in young women and Jewish families as related to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Sharsheret programs serve all women and men.
    • Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer (T.E.A.L®): Tell Every Amazing Lady® About Ovarian Cancer. Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s mission is to promote public awareness and education of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer, provide support to survivors, and raise funds for research in order to find a screening test and cure for ovarian cancer.

Remember, although ovarian cancer is sometimes known as the “silent killer,” the symptoms associated with it are anything but silent if you know what to listen for.

Be sure to share this post with a friend, family member, or random person on the metro... you may just save a life!

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