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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women, but new treatments are available and working well.  What was once a death sentence is now often pardoned:  when diagnosed early, the five year survival rate has passed 90%.  Still, ovarian cancer will affect one in 55 women in her lifetime, usually in women over age 50.

Women with a family history of ovarian cancers have a higher risk of getting this disease as do women with certain types of breast cancer.  The good news is that birth control pill use for more than 5 years has been shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk by 45-60%.

Ovarian cancer is called a silent killer, but it actually whispers its symptoms, so listen carefully if you hear them.  Nine out of 10 women with ovarian cancer have symptoms such as abdominal swelling; indigestion, gas or bloating; chronic stomach pain; pelvic pressure or pain; persistent or worsening changes in bowel or bladder habits; abnormal vaginal bleeding; unexplained weight loss; fatigue; pain with intercourse; or shortness of breath. 

The best way to identify ovarian cancer is through an abnormality felt on a routine pelvic exam. . Which means the best preventive measure women can take is to have their annual gynecologic exam.

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Created: 1/19/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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