Ovarian cancer is the growth of cancer cells that starts in the ovaries. The ovaries, found on either side of a woman's uterus, make eggs and female hormones.
There are more than 20,000 cases of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and it causes more deaths than any other female reproductive cancer. This type of cancer most often strikes women age 55 and older, but can happen to younger women as well.
Risk factors include:
- Age 55 or older: Most women are age 55 or older when diagnosed
- Family history: A history of the disease within the family; a mother, daughter or sister with ovarian cancer
- Personal history: Women who have had cancer of the breast, uterus or colon or rectum
- Obesity: Very overweight women may be at greater risk
- Hormone therapy: Women who take the female hormone estrogen alone (without the male hormone progesterone) for 10 or more years.2
Having a risk factor does not mean you will get ovarian cancer, just that you may be more likely to get it. It is also possible to get ovarian cancer without having any risk factors.
Ovarian cancer may not show signs early on. But as the cancer grows, signs or symptoms may include:
- Bloating, or swelling
- Fatigue, or feeling tired and worn out
- Pain in the pelvis, back, or legs
- Nausea (upset stomach) or gas
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
- Heavy periods or bleeding after menopause
Having one or more of these signs does not mean you have ovarian cancer. But you should check with your doctor. Your doctor can do a physical exam and order tests to look for signs of cancer.
Log in to Blue Access for Members to learn more about ovarian cancer or visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s (NOCC) website. The NOCC is committed to raising awareness and educating the public about ovarian cancer.
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