Are You At Risk for Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest type of gynecologic cancer. That’s probably because it typically is not diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage. But you can help protect yourself by knowing if you are at risk for this cancer and what symptoms to watch for.
What puts you at risk?
The exact causes of ovarian cancer are unknown. But the following things may play a role:
Age. The odds of developing ovarian cancer increase over time. Women ages 63 and older account for half of all ovarian cancer cases.
Obesity. For women, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher is considered obese. These women may have a higher risk than women with lower BMIs.
Family history. Your risk is higher if you have a daughter, sister, or mother (first-degree relative) who has had ovarian cancer. The more relatives you have with this cancer, the higher your risk. A history of the disease in family members on your father’s side is also linked to a higher risk.
Personal history. Women who have had colorectal, uterine, or breast cancer may face a higher risk for ovarian cancer than those who have not had one of these other cancers.
Pregnancy. Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 35 or never give birth have a higher risk. In fact, the more children women have, the less likely they are to get ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding may also lower your risk.
Medicines. According to some evidence, using estrogen-only hormone therapy after menopause may raise your risk.
Treatment works best when ovarian cancer is found early. But symptoms are often vague and may not show up until later stages of the cancer. Easy-to-overlook warning signs may include:
Stomach discomfort, such as pain or bloating
Diarrhea, constipation, or frequent urination
Feeling full quickly
Belly swelling with weight loss
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Pain during intercourse
Talk with your health care provider if you notice any of these symptoms.