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Frequently Asked Questions about Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian Cancer Myths
Q. Is it true that there are no symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer?

A. Many in the medical community and a number of medical texts still hold the incorrect belief that there are no symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer. While the symptoms for early stage ovarian cancer tend to be nonspecific and can mimic nongynecologic conditions, a large national study shows that an overwhelming majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer did have symptoms. The most common symptoms reported include: abdominal bloating or discomfort; increased abdominal size or clothes that fit tighter around your waist; increased or urgent need to urinate and pelvic pain. Additional signs and symptoms are: Persistent gas, indigestion or nausea; unexplained changes in bowel habits; unexplained weight loss or gain; loss of appetite; feeling full quickly during or after a meal and pain during sexual intercourse; a persistent lack of energy and low back pain of shortness of breath.

Q. Is it true that a woman who has had her ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer?
A. Technically, women who have their ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer. There is a rare type of cancer called primary peritoneal carcinoma - a close relative to ovarian cancer that can develop without the ovaries. Primary peritoneal carcinoma is cancer of the abdominal lining. It looks the same as epithelial ovarian cancer under a microscope, it has the same symptoms, it spreads in a similar pattern and it is treated in the same way as ovarian cancer.

Q. Does promoting ovarian cancer information increase anxiety among women?
A. A recent scientific study in Britain dispelled this idea; promoting cancer information really reassures the public. (British Medical Journal 1999) It is important to empower women with the knowledge to take charge of their health and be good advocates.

Source: A. Goff, M.D., Lynn Mandel, Ph.D., Howard G. Muntz, M.D., Cindy H. Melancon, R.N., M.N. 2000. Ovarian carcinoma diagnosis. Cancer 89, No. 10: 1097-0142

Prevention, Risk and Hereditary Factors

Q. Is there any way to prevent ovarian cancer?

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Great information.I am sure people would be better aware of ovarian cancer after reading your article.The information on primary peritoneal carcinoma was something new and informative.I have seen women who confuse between diarrhea and ovarian cancer.This would be useful for them.I read an article in the following link which explains a new treatment for ovarian cancer.May be it is useful for the readers.

September 9, 2009 - 3:19am
EmpowHER Guest

When speaking of genetic/familial risks please include Lynch Syndrome. A recent article written by Dr Henry Lynch Sr (published 9/09) can be found at:

Sandi Pniauskas

"Following colorectal cancer, the second most frequent cancer in Lynch syndrome is endometrial carcinoma (occurs in 40%–60% of women with the mutation), followed by carcinoma of the ovary (occurs in about 12%–15% of women with the mutation). Based on their study of the evidence, Lindor and colleagues recommend endometrial sampling and transvaginal ultrasonography of the uterus beginning between age 30 and 35. They also recommend transvaginal ultrasonograpy of the ovaries beginning at the same age. We agree with these recommendations, with the caveat that the patient must be fully apprised of the screening limitations for early detection of ovarian cancer, as well as the lack of evidence of a reduction in mortality through endometrial and ovarian screening. The efficacy of prophylactic hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy in women who have a Lynch syndrome–related germline mutation is supported by evidence-based findings, and this should be offered as an option for cancer prevention after a woman’s family is completed. "

September 3, 2009 - 8:07pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Sandi, thank you for your comment and for sharing this information. Lynch Syndrome is also considered a factor in colorectal cancer.

One study has led to the belief among most medical professionals that a large portion—up to an estimated 20%—of all colon cancer cases may be related to hereditary factors. Two such factors have been specifically identified: familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (Lynch Syndrome). People with these two diseases are more likely than others to develop colon cancer. Colon Cancer: Common and Curable

For more information, please see:

VIDEO: Dr. Williams - Is Endometrial Cancer Hereditary?

September 3, 2009 - 9:07pm
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