Understanding risks for ovarian cancer

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Ovarian cancer is often considered a silent killer, because many times, women do not know they have it until it is too late. Ovarian cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers diagnosed in women and is the deadliest gynecological cancer. This year, The American Cancer Society estimates that doctors will diagnose more than 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer in the United States and 15,500 American women will die of the disease.

Fortunately, when found in the early stages, treatment can be effective and chances for recovery are improved. Knowing the risk factors, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can help you protect your loved ones and yourself.

Women with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer include those over 50 years old, a family history of ovarian, being diagnosed with breast, uterine or colon cancer, no children or trouble conceiving.

Since ovarian cancer symptoms are similar to the symptoms for many different diseases, you should pay close attention to your body. If you began experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for longer than two weeks, you should talk with your doctor about possible causes.
Pain below your stomach and/or between your hips
Back pain
Being constantly tired
Difficulty eating or always feeling full
Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge

Since 1977, the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association has raised funds for ovarian cancer research at the University of Kentucky. The program was started by Virginia McCandless, an officer in the association who lost her fight with ovarian cancer. To date, Extension Homemakers have raised nearly $1.2 million.

Funds raised by Extension Homemakers also help fund a free ovarian cancer screening program at UK. Women over 50 or 25 with a family history of ovarian cancer can participate. For more information, visit UK’s Ovarian Cancer Screening Program website at http://ovarianscreening.info/.

In Trimble County, Extension Homemakers raise funds for ovarian cancer programs by donating at least $1 per extension homemaker member.

For more information about ovarian cancer or how to donate to the UK Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, contact the Trimble County office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 255-7188.

Sources: Ingrid Adams, UK assistant extension professor for nutrition and weight management
Kim Henken, assistant to the director of UK’s School of Human Environmental Sciences

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.