Ovarian Cancer


The Disease

Ovarian cancer has historically been called a “silent killer” with one in every 100 women with the disease dying from it. Why? Because it can spread before the condition is detected.1,2 The problem is the symptoms are common to other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, menopause or a woman’s period.

Key Symptoms3

·       Bloating & Constipation

·       Pelvic or abdominal pain

·       Fatigue

·       Loss of Appetite

·       Urgent need to urinate

·       Pain during sex

·       Upset stomach

·       Menstrual changes

·       Back pain

·       Weight loss

Most common risk factors for ovarian cancer

·       Family history: If a family member has ovarian cancer, or had it

·       Childbirth and menopause: Women who have never had children or who have never taken oral contraceptives.4 Women who had early menstruation or late menopause.

·       Genetics: Women with inherited mutations in BRCA1 have an increased risk of up to 39% of developing ovarian cancer. Women with inherited BRAC2 mutations have an increased risk of up to 17%.5-8

·       Age: Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women over 63.2

·       Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also called Lynch II syndrome: puts a woman at a 12% higher risk.9

·       Hormone replacement therapy: If a woman is being treated or has been treated with the hormone estrogen for ten or more years.10

·       Life style - smoking and obesity: if a woman has a body mass index of 30 or over.2


Today, doctors may be able to diagnose ovarian cancer with greater certainty by combining advanced blood testing techniques, which help to better identify women at risk and pinpoint those women who need to undergo further investigation.1,2



Treatment Options

Until very recently, treatment options were limited to surgery and chemotherapy. However, recent scientific breakthroughs mean newly diagnosed women or those with recurrent disease can now be treated with targeted therapies as well


1. GLOBOCAN. http://globocan.iarc.fr/Pages/fact_sheets_population.aspx. Last accessed November 2016.

2. American Cancer Society. Ovarian Cancer. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2014.

3. Goff B. Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2012;55(1):36-42.

4. Collaborative Group on Epidemiological Studies of Ovarian Cancer, Beral V, Doll R, Hermon C, Peto R, Reeves G. Ovarian cancer and oral contraceptives: collaborative reanalysis of data from 45 epidemiological studies including 23,257 women with ovarian cancer and 87,303 controls. Lancet. 2008;371(9609):303-314.

5. Ramus SJ, Gayther SA. The contribution of BRCA1 and BRCA2 to ovarian cancer. Mol Oncol. 2009;3:138-150.

6. Risch HA, McLaughlin JR, Cole DE, et al. Prevalence and penetrance of germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in a population series of 649 women with ovarian cancer. Am J Hum Genet. 2001;68(3):700-710.

7. Ford D, Easton DF, Bishop DT, Narod SA, Goldgar DE. Risks of cancer in BRCA1-mutation carriers. Breast Cancer Linkage Consortium. Lancet. 1994;343(8899):692-695.

8. Finch A, Beiner M, Lubinski J, et al. Salpingo-oophorectomy and the risk of ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancers in women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 Mutation. JAMA. 2006;296(2):185-192.

9. Aarnio M, Mecklin JP, Aaltonen LA, Nyström-Lahti M, Järvinen HJ. Life-time risk of different cancers in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) syndrome. Int J Cancer. 1995;64(6):430-433.

10. Lacey JV, Mink PJ, Lubin JH, et al. Menopausal hormone replacement therapy and risk of ovarian cancer. JAMA. 2002;288(3):334-341