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Everything You Need to About Ovarian Cancer and Early Detection

More than 22,000 women are diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer annually in the United States. More than two-thirds of those women are diagnosed after menopause, but this does not mean cancer doesn’t start until women hit menopause. 

Nearly 60% of women are not seeing their gynecologist regularly, which is often the reason for later diagnosis of diseases and cancers in women, especially cancers associated with the reproductive organs. 

It’s important to schedule an annual gynecological exam regularly and not wait until there is an issue to see a doctor. During a gynecologist's visit, they may screen for STDs, dive into your medical and sexual history, and perform a pap smear, a screening test for cervical cancer. During these appointments, there is also an opportunity to mention anything out of the ordinary to help the doctor diagnose or provide additional testing based on your symptoms. 

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer are often vague and non-specific. They can include: 

-abdominal pain


-nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or frequent urination

-pain during sex

-abnormal vaginal bleeding

-unexplained weight change

Don't hesitate to contact your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Your doctor is an excellent resource and can help ease your mind about symptoms while also getting to the root cause of such symptoms. 

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

You have an increased risk for Ovarian Cancer if there is a family history of Ovarian Cancer or breast cancer. Having had breast cancer in the past also increases your risk for Ovarian Cancer. Women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have an increased hereditary risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  

In addition to increased risk due to family history, women who have never been pregnant are also at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. This is why it’s so important for our patients to see their gynecologist annually, even during their care with us. We value your health and want to ensure you are in the best health while trying to conceive through fertility treatment. 

Having early menstruation or late menopause can also increase your risk of Ovarian cancer as it’s more probably to get Ovarian Cancer the longer you regularly ovulate. For women with endometriosis, the ovarian cancer risk is also slightly increased. 

You can use the following calculator to assess your risk: 


Lowering Your Risk for Ovarian Cancer

Whether you are at a higher risk for Ovarian Cancer or not, there are a few things that can continue to help lower your risk. Women on oral contraceptives often have a lower risk if they’ve been on “the pill” for three months or longer. Evidence shows that the protection offered by oral contraceptives can last up to years after being off the medication. Oral contraceptives have potential risks for some groups of women, so discuss them with your doctor before considering this option. 

Pregnancy is also shown to reduce your risk, and your risk continues to decrease with each subsequent full-term pregnancy. Once you are done growing your family, a tubal ligation (or having your “tubes tied”) can continue to decrease your risk. However, it’s only recommended to prevent future pregnancies and not to reduce your potential cancer risk. 

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Paying attention to your body and any abnormal symptoms is important in detecting Ovarian Cancer as no single test can be done. If anything seems out of the norm, let your doctor know about the symptoms and when they started so they can help to monitor or offer additional testing if these symptoms do not have any other explanation.

The more you know, the more you can do to reduce your risk of Ovarian Cancer along with other reproductive health issues. Today is the day to make that appointment if it’s been a while since your last visit with the gynecologist!

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