Ovarian cancer is expected to affect almost 20,000 American women this year. It is the most deadly reproductive cancer and the fifth most common cause of death from cancer in women. Yet many women don’t know the basic information about this type of cancer.
Take the quiz to see how much you know about ovarian cancer. You might be surprised by some of the things you didn’t know. Read on to learn the truth about some common myths about this type of cancer.
Myth #1: Pap smears catch ovarian cancer
Pap smears test for cervical cancer only. HPV tests also only catch cervical cancer. In fact, there is no routine screening test for ovarian cancer. Like other forms of cancer, ovarian cancer is best treated at an early stage. But it often isn’t caught till later stages, when it can cause pain. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, you should discuss this with your doctor.
Myth #2: It’s a silent killer
Many people believe that ovarian cancer has no symptoms. This may be because the symptoms can be signs of other problems, or may even be ignored because they seem to happen to almost everybody at some point. If you feel bloated, have trouble eating, feel heaviness or pain in your pelvis, or experience new urinary urgency or frequency, ask your doctor.
Myth #3: I’m only at risk if it runs in my family
Actually, only 10-15% of women with ovarian cancer have family members who have already had the disease. While there is a hereditary component, most people who need treatment for cancer of the ovaries do not have relatives with the disease.
Myth #4: Ovarian cysts should always be removed
Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous. If they are benign, they do not need to be removed for fear of developing into cancer. However, ovarian cysts should always be checked (through blood tests or imaging, for example) to make sure that they are benign.
Myth #5: Ovarian cancer is incurable
Ovarian cancer tends to be found in later stages. In fact, 80% of these cancers are not found until the late stages, when it is harder to treat them. This means that cures are less likely. However, when it is detected at an early stage, there is a 94% five-year survival rate. This makes it very important to talk with your doctor if you have any concerns over symptoms.
Myth # 6: A hysterectomy prevents ovarian cancer
Not all hysterectomies remove the ovaries. It is also possible for cells from the ovaries to be left behind when they are removed, and then become cancerous. You should not ignore symptoms because you have had a hysterectomy.
Myth #7: Nothing will prevent ovarian cancer
There are some things that can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer. Having children, especially before the age of 26, breastfeeding, and taking birth control pills all reduce your risk. Smoking, obesity, and hormone replacement therapy all increase your risk.
Knowledge is power. If you have further questions about ovarian cancer or you think you may have symptoms, talk with your gynecologist.