About Ovarian Cancer: The Stats, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

About Ovarian Cancer: The Stats, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

September is Ovarian Cancer awareness month. This cancer affects over 20,000 women in the US each near, has no simple tests for detection and it’s not detected through a Pap smear, so it’s often only detected in later stages. Understanding the risk factors and symptoms, and listening to your body, empowering yourself with information is key.

About the disease

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries with the development of a tumor – there are various types of tumors. About 85% to 90% of ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas. With ovarian cysts, most are benign, but a small number of them could be cancer. A small portion of ovarian cancers occur in women with inherited gene mutations (like the BRCA1), but we don’t know exactly what causes most ovarian cancers. Research is ongoing.

The stats

From the American Cancer Society:

  • About 22,440 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
  • This cancer mainly develops in older women (about half of the women diagnosed are 63 years or older).
  • The rate of diagnosis has been falling for the last 20 years.


Major symptoms of ovarian cancer are fairly nonspecific, but listening to your body is key. Many women with the cancer have reported both persistent abdominal bloating and frequent urination.

Lowering your risks

  • Using birth control pills has been shown to decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer (especially for women who use them for several years).
  • Tubal ligation and hysterectomy may reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer, but should be done only for valid medical reasons. (Some women choose to have their ovaries removed in an oophorectomy.)
  • If your family history might suggest a link to ovarian cancers, experts recommend genetic testing.

In the news

A woman sued Johnson & Johnson recently, charging that years of baby powder use led to her cancer diagnosis. Last month, “a Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million to an ovarian cancer patient who suited the company over talc in their iconic baby powder, a product she says she’d used on a daily basis for over 50 years leading up to her diagnosis.” While research is still underway, many experts advise adults stop using talcum powder on themselves (and their kids).

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