September is ovarian cancer (OC) awareness month. While OC accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women, it causes more fatalities than any other gynecological cancer. About 90% of women who get OC are older than 40, with the greatest number being 55 or older. Globally each year there are nearly 250,000 new cases diagnosed and about 140,000 deaths from OC. Diagnosis at an early stage vastly improves a woman’s chance of survival. If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year survival rate is 93%. Unfortunately, OC is too often diagnosed at a late stage. Many women also mistakenly believe that a cervical smear or Pap test will detect OC. It does not.
Awareness of the symptoms of OC may enable women to receive earlier diagnosis and treatment. Signs and symptoms that should trigger a doctor’s medical evaluation are increased abdominal size, persistent bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, abdominal or pelvic pain, and urinary urgency or frequency. While these symptoms are often associated with more common and less serious conditions, a woman who has these symptoms should see a specialist to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
The causes of OC are not well understood, but there are certain factors in addition to advancing age in post-menopausal women that increase the risk, including obesity, a family history of OC, colorectal cancer, or a prior diagnosis of breast cancer. There are two specific gene mutations (known as BRCA1 and BRCA2) that also are known to confer a higher risk. Factors associated with lower risk are pregnancy, breastfeeding, birth control pills/contraceptive injections, tubal ligation, hysterectomy, and a low fat diet.
Recent scientific literature also suggests a potential environmental cause due to talc fibers from prolonged hygienic use of Baby Powder (about 99% talc) and related products such as Shower to Shower (about 45% talc). The lawyers at the Spangenberg Law Firm have been actively investigating this association for the past several months.