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What is Ovarian Cancer?

What do Gene Wilder and Pierce Brosnan have in common? They each lost beloved wives to ovarian cancer and spoke out about the disease.  As a result, women are becoming more aware of ovarian cancer.   This is one of the most difficult cancers to diagnose early and one of the most aggressive cancers.  It will affect more than 25,000 women each year and kill more than half.

Although the symptoms are vague, most women with ovarian cancer can tell that something is just not right.  Many feel bloated or have constipation.  They may feel pelvic discomfort, particularly during sex.  Some women gain weight from abdominal swelling; they may even look pregnant.  General fatigue and malaise are also common. 

There are risk factors for ovarian cancer:  women who have a family history of ovarian cancer or who have never been pregnant are at greatest risk.  Other risks include having had other cancers or even a family history of certain other cancers, particularly the hereditary forms of breast cancer.  Good news in the prevention department comes from research showing that taking birth control pills for five or more years can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by nearly 60%!  This benefit persists for 15 years after stopping the Pill.  Spending more months pregnant and nursing also lowers your risk of ovarian cancer. . .but this is not a recommended preventive course!

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Created: 11/6/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 6/30/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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