Total Access Medical - Direct Primary Care Blog

What You Should Know About Ovarian Cancer

Posted by Total Access Medical on Jan 23, 2019
Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 3.44.52 PM.jpgOvarian cancer refers to any cancerous growth that begins in the ovary. It is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in women and the tenth most common cancer among women in the United States. 

Early symptoms of ovarian cancer may include: pain in the pelvis, the lower abdomen, or the lower part of the body, back pain, indigestion, feeling full rapidly when eating, more frequent and urgent urination, pain during sexual intercourse, and changes in bowel habits, such as constipation.

As the cancer progresses, there may also be nausea, weight loss, breathlessness, tiredness and loss of appetite. 


Ovarian cancer happens when cells divide and multiply in an unregulated way. However, exactly why this happens is not clear.

The following risk factors are linked to a higher chance of developing the disease:

Family history

Women with close relatives who have had ovarian or breast cancer have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared with other women.

Genetic screening can determine whether somebody carries certain genes that are associated with an increased risk.


Most cases of ovarian cancer occur after menopause, and especially in women aged over 63 years. It is rare before the age of 40 years.

Reproductive history

Women who have had one or more full-term pregnancies, especially before the age of 26 years, have a lower risk. The more pregnancies they have, the lower the risk.

Breastfeeding may also decrease the risk.

Birth control

Using the contraceptive pill for at least 3 to 6 months appears to reduce the risk. The longer the pill is used, the lower the risk appears to be.

Infertility or fertility treatment

Fertility drugs have been linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer, especially in women who used them for more than one year without becoming pregnant. Those who are infertile may also have a higher risk than those who are not, possible due to not carrying a pregnancy.

Breast Cancer

Women who have received a diagnosis of breast cancer have a higher chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Hormone Therapy

HRT slightly increases a women's risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk appears to increase the longer the HRT continues, and returns to normal as soon as treatment stops.

Obesity and Overweight

Obesity and overweight appear to increase the risk of developing many cancers. Ovarian cancer is more common in women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.

Gynecologic Surgery

Having surgery on the reproductive organs appear to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.


Women who develop endometriosis have an around 30 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared with other women.


In the early stages, there may be few or no symptoms. Pelvic pain can be a sign of ovarian cancer. Most ovarian cancers start in the epithelium, or outer lining, of the ovary. 

Symptoms may resemble those of other conditions, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or a temporary bladder problem.

The main difference between ovarian cancer and other possible disorders is the persistence and gradual worsening of symptoms.


Topics: Cancer