Ovarian cancer is a malignant growth, in the form of a tumor or cyst, which develops in a woman’s ovary. Ovarian cancer is silent and deadly and has been called the “whispering disease.” Unlike breast cancer, one cannot perform a self-exam for ovarian cancer. At the present time, there is no accurate and easily administered screening tool, like a mammogram, for this type of disease.
The ovaries, which are glands located on either side of the uterus, produce hormones in all women and eggs in pre-menopausal women as well.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers and it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. One in 57 women will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime. It is most prevalent in women over age 50.
The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. However, you should know that certain factors may increase your susceptibility to ovarian cancer. These factors include prior incidence of breast cancer, family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer, poor reproductive history, delay of childbirth until after 30, infertility, environmental factors such as exposure to asbestos or high level of radiation, and use of estrogen (non-contraceptive).
Ovarian cancer is deadly because it is usually diagnosed after it has spread outside the ovaries. Doctors sometimes miss the diagnosis in the earlier stages of the disease because there are very few symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, and the vague few that exist can be attributed to other, less serious conditions. The result of late diagnosis is often devastating; currently 50 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer die from it within five years. However, when detected at an early stage, ovarian cancer is treatable.