About 22,440 American women will learn they have ovarian cancer this year, and more than 14,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Often called a “silent killer,” ovarian cancer is the 9th most common type of malignancy in women in the United States. Every woman should know the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

While the causes are unclear, those at increased risk are:

  • Over the age of 55
  • Those with a close relative (mother, daughter or sister) with ovarian cancer
  • Women with a family history of breast, uterine or colon cancers

Others at increased risk include:

  • Women who have had breast, uterine or colon cancer
  • Women who have never been pregnant

Women with a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer may be candidates for genetic testing to check for a specific gene mutation that increases risk. Because ovarian cancer symptoms are often mild, you might ignore or dismiss them. Don’t.

The Valley Health System says you should see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms, especially if they persist:

  • Heaviness in the pelvic area
  • Lower abdominal pain, bloating or swelling
  • Gas, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Urinary frequency or urgency

Treatment typically involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

If you do need treatment, select a cancer center that handles a high number of ovarian cancer cases. Research shows that hospitals that treat more than 20 ovarian cancer cases a year and surgeons who operate on more than 10 cases a year have significantly better patient outcomes than lower volume hospitals and surgeons, according to the Valley Health System.



More information

The American Cancer Society has more on ovarian cancer.

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