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FOR RELEASE: September 6, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Women Warned to Recognize Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a serious and often unrecognized disease. About one woman in 57 will get ovarian cancer in her lifetime. There are no simple, inexpensive screening tools to detect it, and its symptoms may be confused with other diseases.

Some women mistakenly believe that their annual Pap test will detect ovarian cancer; however, the Pap test is a test for cervical, not ovarian cancer. The key to detecting ovarian cancer is to have a complete physical examination that includes a pelvic examination and to discuss any of the following signs and symptoms with a physician:

  • General abdominal discomfort and or pain. The feeling of gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling and bloating over a period of time.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Feeling of fullness after a meal.
  • Weight gain or loss with no known reason.
  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina.

Nationally, the death rate for ovarian cancer is 7.3 per 100,000 women. For Oklahoma women, the death rate is 6.9 per 100,000 women.

While the exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known, studies show that the following factors may increase a woman's risk for getting ovarian cancer:

  • Age – the older the woman, the more likely her chance of getting ovarian cancer. Most ovarian cancer occurs after the age of 50 years, but younger women can get ovarian cancer.
  • Childbearing – women who have never had a child are more at risk then women who have had children.
  • Personal history – women who have had breast, colon or rectal cancer are more likely to get ovarian cancer.
  • Fertility drugs – women who take drugs to enhance their fertility or to cause the woman to ovulate are more likely to have ovarian cancer.
  • Women who use talc in the genital area may also be at more risk.

Early detection of ovarian cancer is crucial to treatment. State health officials hope women will become more aware of ovarian cancer during September, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and will discuss the issue with their physician or health care provider. Women can also call the Chronic Disease Service of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 405/271-4072, for more information.

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