Michigan Observes National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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As Michigan observes September as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the risk factors and signs and symptoms of this deadly disease.

Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers among women and ranks 2nd among gynecological cancers. It causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

In 2005, 538 Michigan women died from ovarian cancer, and in 2004, 727 Michigan women were newly diagnosed with the disease. In 2008, the American Cancer Society estimates that 550 Michigan women will die from ovarian cancer.

There are many risk factors for developing ovarian cancer. The risk factors that increase a woman's risk for the disease include:

- Family history of ovarian or breast cancer

- Personal history of breast cancer

- White/Caucasian race

- Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent

- Older age

- Early menarche (before age 12) or late menopause (after age 50)

- Never having had children

- Having children late in life

- High fat diet

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- Use of talcum powder on the genital area

Factors that reduce a woman's risk for developing ovarian cancer:

- Use of birth control pills

- Having more than one child

- Breast feeding

- Having a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or tubal ligation (female sterilization)

- Having both ovaries removed

"Because there currently is no effective screening test for this disease, ovarian cancer usually is not diagnosed at an early stage," said Greg Holzman, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

However, recent studies have shown that the following symptoms are more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population:

- Bloating

- Pelvic or abdominal pain

- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

"If you have these symptoms occur almost daily and with increasing severity for more than a few weeks, you should see your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, for a thorough examination," Holzman said.

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