Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian cancer awareness

Did you know September is ovarian cancer awareness month?

Pink ribbons are everywhere for October’s breast cancer awareness, so why isn’t ovarian cancer just as public? One reason is because, unfortunately, there are fewer survivors. Most ovarian cancer isn’t caught until stage 3, and the five-year survival rate for a stage 3 diagnosis is 39%.

Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Because the symptoms often mimic a stomach ache and are assumed to be temporary, most women don’t recognize them and go months without seeing a doctor. By the time they are eventually diagnosed (if they even get diagnosed) with the disease, it has often already spread to surrounding organs. I wrote an earlier post here on how ovarian cancer affected my mom and ultimately took her life too soon. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer awareness was minimal when my family needed it the most.

With the help of Sydney at ConsumerSafety.org, this post is being made to get the word out on ovarian cancer so this deadly disease can come to an end.

Ovarian cancer facts

Here are a few more key statistics about ovarian cancer:

  • Ovarian cancer is the #1 cause of gynecologic cancer deaths
  • Women have a 1 in 75 chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime
  • Half the women who develop ovarian cancer are over the age of 60
  • Around 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year
  • Every 23 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States

Does a Pap test detect ovarian cancer?

No, pap smears are done to detect cervical cancer.

So what test DOES detect ovarian cancer?

As of now, there is no definitive screening test for ovarian cancer. However, current helpful screenings are regular pelvic exams, reporting any symptoms early, having a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test. Unfortunately, the ultrasound and CA-125 blood test are not recommended for diagnosing ovarian cancer. The CA-125 blood test  gives too many false readings (and is only used as a screening tool for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer to see if treatment is working), and screening with transvaginal ultrasounds does not reduce the number of deaths caused by this disease.

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, they aren’t clear-cut. My mom, who survived two years with ovarian cancer, simply thought she was enduring a stomach ache that wouldn’t go away. Below are some of the most frequently cited symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

What will increase my risk of getting ovarian cancer?

  • Having a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Being post-menopausal
  • Not having any children
  • Over age 40
  • Obesity, or a BMI of at least 30
  • Taking fertility medication
  • Having excess or supplementing with male hormones or androgens
  • Taking estrogens (without progesterone) after menopause

Obviously, we cannot control all of our risk factors. Many of them are beyond our control. It’s important to carefully consider every health decision you make because it may affect your reproductive health as well.

How do I reduce my risk of getting ovarian cancer?

Here’s some helpful information:

Ovarian cancer facts

In addition to the infographic above, you can reduce your risk by:

  • Being pregnant, as well as breastfeeding (an increased number or pregnancies and sustained breastfeeding decreases the risk for ovarian cancer)
  • Not using talcum powder on or near your genitals
  • Tying off the fallopian tubes (getting your “tubes tied”) or having a complete hysterectomy
  • If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancers, performing genetic testing will give you the information that you and your doctor might need to make educated health choices in your future.

Get the word out to your female friends and family, so they too will learn about ovarian cancer awareness. Learning the symptoms of ovarian cancer can save your life or the life of a loved one. Let’s do everything we can to end this silent, and too often deadly, disease.

Happy (and healthy) Travels!


Many thanks to Sydney at ConsumerSafety.org who helped with this post. Here’s a link ConsumerSafety.org’s charitable cause, Hope for Heather, a 100% volunteer charity, promoting ovarian cancer awareness. 


  1. Deborah pike | 7th Sep 17

    Please help. My gp referred me for an ultrasound scan but the hospital refused it saying I didn’t meet their criteria!!! I have every symptom of ovarian cancer. I was treated for a uti and now that’s sorted they don’t want to know. I’m worried sick and my parents said they will pay for private scan but I still need gp referral

    • Julie | 7th Sep 17

      It sounds like you need some answers. You have options. #1- You could talk to your insurance provider, because they are likely the ones telling the hospital that you can’t have the scan since you don’t meet the criteria. Perhaps they will only pay for part of the scan. #2 – You could find another physician for a second opinion. #3 – You should also talk with the billing department at the hospital. If you are going to pay for the scan out of pocket, you should still be able to get it done and have the bill sent home. I understand that you are very concerned. Unfortunately, for you to get the answers that you need, you or your parents will have to do some digging – making phone calls, talking to your insurance, etc. Perhaps you could schedule a visit with a gyne cancer specialist to talk about your symptoms. Maybe your local chapter of an ovarian cancer organization (like NOCC or OCRF) can help. I wish you the best of luck in your journey and sincerely hope that this won’t be the start of a long cancer battle. Keep me updated! -Julie 🙂

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