By Ally Carlson, Health Education Intern
Kids are back in school, the weather is starting to cool off, and the leaves are just beginning to change. With all of these exciting signs of September, it is also important to think about the awareness that this month brings. September 1st marks the start of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, close to 22,000 US women receive a new diagnosis for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer can only develop in people with a female reproductive system. This is because this type of cancer develops in or on the ovaries. The ovaries are the reproductive glands that make the eggs that are used during human reproduction. Most biological females have two ovaries—one on each side of their uterus. The uterus is where a fetus (unborn baby) develops during pregnancy. Ovarian cancer happens when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply rapidly and form a tumor. These abnormal cells can sometimes spread to other parts of the body and form tumors there as well.
Ovarian cancer is commonly found during the later stages of the disease, because early stage ovarian cancer does not usually have noticeable symptoms. Once symptoms are present, they can be easy to overlook because many are similar to symptoms of other common illnesses. Symptoms can include abdominal bloating, feeling full quickly, weight loss, discomfort in the pelvis area, constipation, and an increased frequency or urge of urination.
This cancer is mainly seen among older women. About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 or older. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or obesity are at a higher risk of developing this disease. Women who have never been pregnant, women who started menstruation early, and women who started menopause late are also at an increased risk. Women who have used certain fertility drugs or hormone therapies also have a higher risk.
While there are no proven ways to completely eliminate the risk of developing ovarian cancer, the risk can be lowered. Ways to lower your risk of ovarian cancer include taking oral birth control pills, breastfeeding, and pregnancy. As with any disease, discussing possible risk factors and prevention methods with your doctor is encouraged.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Little Red Door is here to help!