September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society reports that when ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated in its early stages, nine out of 10 women have a survival rate of five or more years.
“There is not yet an approved screening test for ovarian cancer and a screening pelvic exam is of limited value for early detection, so it is important to discuss any unusual symptoms with your physician,” says OB/GYN Jonathan Scrafford, MD, of Ascension Medical Group Via Christi. “An annual visit also provides an opportunity to identify risk factors associated with a genetic predisposition for ovarian cancer, an area which is increasingly appreciated as crucial to early detection."
A woman’s risk for developing ovarian cancer increases with age. In fact, while relatively rare among women under age 40, half of all ovarian cancers occur in women 63 years of age or older.
Other factors that increase a woman’s risk for developing epithelial ovarian cancer—the most common type — are:
- Having children after age 35 or never having had a full-term pregnancy.
- Having a mother, sister or daughter or multiple relatives who have had ovarian cancer.