Silent Killer: What You Must Know About Ovarian Cancer

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Although African American women have lower incidence rates for ovarian cancer, they have worse survival rates from this disease. Also, although survival rates for Caucasian women have improved modestly over the past four decades, there has been no improvement for African American women.

Why is there such a major difference between African American and Caucasian women when it comes to developing and surviving ovarian cancer? No one yet knows the answer, but educating women on the ailment and starting a dialogue with healthcare professionals, is a good place to start.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

This cancer begins in the ovaries, the twin organs that produce a woman’s eggs and the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Treatments for ovarian cancer have become more effective in recent years, with the best results seen when the disease is found early.

So, What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • Bloating or pressure in the belly
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Feeling full too quickly during meals
  • Urinating more frequently

These symptoms can be caused by many conditions that are not cancer. If they occur daily for more than a few weeks, report them to your health care professional.

Know Your Family History

A woman’s odds of developing ovarian cancer are higher if a close relative has had cancer of the ovaries, breast, or colon. Researchers believe that inherited genetic changes account for 10% of ovarian cancers. This includes the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which are linked to breast cancer.  Women with a strong family history should talk with a doctor to see whether closer medical follow-up could be helpful.

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