Cancer of the ovaries, the reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and female hormones, is an insidious disease that can often strike without warning. Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, as the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, similar to those in other non-cancerous conditions affecting women. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but tests exist that can identify women who are at higher risk for the disease.
Only 20 percent of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region. When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92 percent. Sadly, though, most patients are diagnosed at advanced stages, and less than 50 percent of women survive longer than five years after diagnosis. The good news is that today 50 percent of women are surviving longer than five years after diagnosis–a marked improvement in the survival rate from 30 or more years ago when it was 10 percent to 20 percent.
Still, ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women. Over 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States in 2012 and about 15,500 women will die from the disease.
Until we have better early detection tools, all women should be educated about ovarian cancer so they can get an early diagnosis and successful treatment. Listen to your body.
For detailed information about ovarian cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.