This year marks the 13th annual Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly of women’s cancers. According to the American Cancer Society statistics, this year, approximately 22,800 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In 2016, approximately 14,240 women will die in the United States from this disease. In the United States, a woman has a 1 in 75 chance of developing ovarian cancer. It is estimated by the World Health Organization IARC Department that there are over 238,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide annually and nearly 152,000 deaths.

This cancer typically occurs in women in their 50s and 60s with the median age being 63. Many women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a genetic history that may include carrying the BRCA mutation gene and having a strong family history of ovarian cancer. These women benefit from early screening and preventive efforts.

Unfortunately, the symptoms for ovarian cancer may be very vague and therefore many women don’t seek help until the disease has begun to spread. However, if detected at its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is more than 93%.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle and easily confused with other ailments. Symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or frequency

Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Backaches
  • Weight Gain

There is no adequate screening test of ovarian cancer at this time which is one of the reasons that this cancer is often discovered in later stages. Talk to your doctor if symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks. You are your best advocate.

At USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, there are some important options for women who have a strong family or hereditary risk of ovarian cancer and can be seen in our innovative Lynne Cohen Clinic for Prevention and Screening for Ovarian and Breast Cancers. Another option for those who have a diagnosis of cancer and need treatment is to see some of our amazing Gynecologic Oncologists who specialize in this disease and can operate and provide chemotherapy as recommended. Clinical trials are also an option for patients who are interested. If you have any questions, please call 323-865-3922.