Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Symptoms, risk factors and more

Exploring common myths and misconceptions about the disease

Credit: Thinkstock

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic cancer. Due to the lack of an early detection test, only 15% of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed early. Approximately 80% of females who go into remission with their initial therapy will have a recurrence of the disease. Ovarian cancer patients have, on average, a five year survival rate of 45%. “Ovarian cancers” include ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, and primary peritoneal cancer (PPC).

Because little is known about ovarian cancer by the general public, it is interesting to learn more by unraveling some common misconceptions:

MYTH: A Pap Smear will check for ovarian cancer. There is no routine screening for ovarian cancer.

MYTH: Ovarian cancer is a Silent Killer. Studies have shown that ovarian cancer is not silent. Rather, the warning signs are subtle. In fact, 90% of women do report symptoms, even at the early stages. Four symptoms have been statistically shown to occur more often in females with ovarian cancer as compared to those in the general public. If any of these symptoms are new and unusual and occur at least 12 times in one month, the woman should see a doctor – preferably a gynecologist. Since there is no diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer, symptom awareness remains of key importance.

Know your Body. Know the symptoms.
Pelvic and Abdominal Pain
Difficulty Eating or Feeling Full Quickly
Urinary Issues – Changes in Frequency or Urgency

If the signs and symptoms suggest ovarian cancer, a complete pelvic exam, including a recto-vaginal exam, a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA 125 blood test should be performed. It should be noted that the CA 125 blood test is used in many cases to track cancer that has been diagnosed. Because it can give false negatives and false positives, it is not used to routinely screen for ovarian cancer.

MYTH: A woman who has had her ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer. Women who have had a removal of both fallopian tubes and ovaries decrease their risk of ovarian and fallopian tube cancer by 90%, but are still at risk for Primary Peritoneal Cancer which accounts for 10%-20% of “ovarian cancer” diagnoses.

MYTH: Ovarian cancer is a grandmother’s disease. While “increasing age” is a risk factor, ovarian cancer affects all ages and all ethnic groups. Other factors which may increase the risk of ovarian cancer:

Risk Factors to understand

-Personal or family history of ovarian, breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer. About 20-25% of ovarian cancer is due to having a hereditary tendency.
-Any female who has been diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer should be referred to a genetic counselor.
-Increased number of menstrual cycles in a lifetime (never had children, late menopause, etc.)
-Infertility, regardless of whether fertility drugs were used
-Hormone Replacement Therapy
-Factors which may decrease the risk of ovarian cancer:
-Oral contraceptive use
-Removal of fallopian tubes and/or ovaries

Until there’s a test, awareness is best!
For more information, contact the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance info@MIOCA.org

If you want to show your support join the MIOCA for the Shake Your Teal Feathers event happening this September.


2015 Shake Your Teal Feathers event Credit: Melinda Smith
2015 Shake Your Teal Feathers event
Credit: Melinda Smith
2015 Shake Your Teal Feathers event Credit: Melinda Smith
2015 Shake Your Teal Feathers event
Credit: Melinda Smith
2015 Shake Your Teal Feathers event Credit: Melinda Smith
2015 Shake Your Teal Feathers event
Credit: Melinda Smith

Sunday September 25, 2016 | 2pm

Millennium Park

Walk, run or ride your bike! Enjoy fun family activities, finish-line snacks, prizes, utilize convenient bike tune-up assistance and water stations. Connect with other families, patients and survivors in a community-spirited event!

Walk: 1.5 or 5k
Run: 1.5 or 5k
Bike: 8.5 mile



Established in 2011, the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance strives to save women’s lives by promoting the early detection of ovarian cancer and improved treatment outcomes. MIOCA raises awareness of ovarian cancer, provides resources and support to survivors and their families, advocates both locally and federally, educates Michigan communities, and funds innovative ovarian cancer research.

Content courtesy of MIOCA

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