September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the United States and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Signs and Symptoms
The ovaries are small organs located on either side of the uterus that produce eggs and several hormones. Ovarian cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop in, near, or on the outer layer of one or both ovaries.
It is important to pay attention to your body and know what feels normal for you. Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Pain or pressure in your hip or pelvic area.
- Feeling bloated.
- Pain in your stomach or back.
- Changes in bathroom habits, such as more frequent or less frequent urges to use the restroom.
- Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating.
Several risk factors may increase your likelihood for ovarian cancer, including if you:
- Are middle-aged or older.
- Have a mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother who has had ovarian cancer.
- Are overweight.
- Have never had children or have had trouble getting pregnant.
- Have had breast, uterine, or colon cancer.
Reduce your risk
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer. The below recommendations may help manage or lower your risk of ovarian cancer.
- Exercise and diet. Maintain a weekly exercise regimen and a healthy diet.
- Healthy lifestyle. Avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breastfeed for a year or more, if you are able. Studies suggest that women who breastfeed may have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer.
- Health care provider. Talk to your physician about your health history and other preventive strategies (e.g. diagnostic tests, surgery, oral contraceptives, etc.).
For resources and more information about ovarian cancer, visit the CDC’s ovarian cancer website.