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Ovarian Cancer Overview

Although the diagnosis rates have been declining over the past 20 years, the American Cancer Society estimates that “about 21,980 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer” this year. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so take some time to educate yourself about the disease.


Although it can occur at any age, ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed in women age 63 or older. It is more common in white women than other races. A family history of ovarian, breast, or colon cancer can increase your risk, as can a personal history of breast cancer. Be sure to discuss your family history and any changes in your body with your Capital Women’s Care provider.

Early Detection

Ovarian cancer is highly treatable when discovered in the early stages. Although there are generally no symptoms in the early stages, warning signs can include:

  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Unexplained weight gain, indigestion, gas, or bloating
  • Abdominal pain or swelling

While these symptoms can be caused by other issues, they can also be related to ovarian cancer. It’s important to have your annual gynecologic exam and discuss any issues with your provider. If you have a family history or display signs of ovarian cancer, such as an enlarged ovary or fluid in the abdomen, your provider will order an ultrasound or other tests to make a diagnosis. He or she may also recommend consulting with a gynecologic oncologist.

Reducing Your Risk

  • Your risk of developing ovarian cancer is decreased with each full-term pregnancy.
  • Studies have shown that breastfeeding may also reduce your risk.
  • Other studies have concluded that using oral contraceptives, having a tubal ligation, or having a hysterectomy also reduce the risk.

For overall health, the professionals at Capital Women’s Care recommend eating a low-fat healthy diet, getting moderate exercise, and not smoking. To learn more about ovarian cancer, visit the American Cancer Society or speak with your Capital Women’s Care provider.