While it doesnï¿½t get as much attention as breast cancer, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, causing more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer.
Although ovarian cancer has no specific known cause, the risk for developing it appears to be affected by several factors. Women ages 50 and over are at the highest risk for developing ovarian cancer. Those with a family history of ovarian cancer or personal history of breast cancer have an increased risk. Additionally, certain gene defects are responsible for a small number of cases.
There are protective factors. The more children a woman has and the earlier in life she gives birth, the lower her risk. Birth control pills taken for more than two years are also shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.
Like most cancers, early detection through screening is key to surviving ovarian cancer. If a tumor is found and treated before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary, the five-year survival rate is 94 percent. However, only 15 percent of all ovarian cancers are found in this early stage because symptoms donï¿½t usually appear until the advanced stages.
ï¿½Ovarian cancer is very curable if it is caught in its early stages,ï¿½ says Dr. John van Nagell, director of the University of Kentuckyï¿½s Ovarian Cancer Screening Program. ï¿½Thatï¿½s why screening is important. Most women with ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until they have advanced disease where treatment is more difficult. Screening improves detection of ovarian cancer at a stage when it is curable.ï¿½
The UK Markey Cancer Center Ovarian Screening Program began in 1987 and provides free cancer screenings to postmenopausal women who are 50 or older, or over the age of 25 with a documented family history of ovarian cancer.
The program uses transvaginal ultrasound to view a womanï¿½s reproductive organs, a painless test taking five to 10 minutes. It is able to detect tumors that are too small to be found during an annual gynecological examination. Through the program, more than 500 total ovarian tumors have been discovered.
For more information about the free UK Ovarian Cancer Screening Program, call (800) 766-8279, or to read more about the disease go online to www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu and search ï¿½ovarian cancer.ï¿½