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FOR RELEASE: September 23, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Women Warned to Recognize Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian cancer is a serious and often unrecognized disease. About one woman in 60 will get ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Unfortunately, there are no simple, inexpensive screening tools to detect it, and its symptoms may be confused with other diseases, according to health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). For the time period of 1997 through 2001, the rate of ovarian cancer cases in the United States was 14.2 per 100,000 persons, compared to the Oklahoma rate of 13.7 cases per 100,000 persons. Although the rate for ovarian cancer is slightly lower in Oklahoma women than the national rate, state health officials warn this disease is deadly.

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.

“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,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher.

Women are being asked 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.

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 than 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.

For more information about ovarian cancer, call the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072.

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