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Ovarian Cancer: Who is at Risk?
By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 2)

Deemed one of the most dangerous gynecological cancers, ovarian cancer occurs in one in 58 women. The American Cancer Society also reports that ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in women today and the fifth most deadly. Symptoms of ovarian cancer are, for the most part, silent until it has spread beyond the ovaries into other areas of the body. By examining the risk factors, women can personally assess their own possibility of developing ovarian cancer. Caregivers too can be prepared to help discuss ovarian cancer risks with a womanís doctor in the event that she underestimates the risks. Caregivers can assist by being vigilant in reporting symptoms to a womanís doctor that may otherwise go overlooked and could point to reasons for further testing.

Hereditary Factors

Some women are at risk because of their family history. A close relative, such as a mother or sister who develops breast cancer or ovarian cancer increases the chances that a woman could have ovarian cancer later in life. Even family members from the fatherís side of the family can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. A history of colorectal cancer on either side of the family also increases the risk.

The breast cancer gene, BRCA1 or BRCA2, can be passed from one family member to the next. If it mutates, there is an extremely high risk of developing ovarian cancer. Genetic testing or genetic counseling can examine whether or not this mutation could have occurred. The American Cancer Society reports that for women who have a mutated breast cancer genes, the risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 increases by as much as 40 or 50 percent. By contrast, the risk to the average women without this genetic mutation is approximately 2 percent. A similar mutation in the gene for colorectal cancer can also increase the risk for developing ovarian cancer.

Personal Risk Factors:

Several issues in a personís own health profile can put them at risk for developing ovarian cancer at some point in their life. For example, ovarian cancer is more prevalent in white women than in African American or Hispanic women. A Jewish woman also faces a slightly higher chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

A personal history of breast cancer will increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer later in life. It may be possible that the inherited mutated breast cancer genes discussed previously are the culprits. Mutated genes, like the ones for breast cancer or colorectal cancer, are not always inherited though. Sometimes these genes mutate on their own as a woman ages. Researchers have yet to link these acquired mutations to ovarian cancer, though.

Obesity further increases the risk that a woman will develop ovarian cancer, sometimes as much as 50 percent. Obesity has been linked to a myriad of other health concerns, so it should be little surprise that it plays a role in certain types of cancer. Some studies suggest that a diet high in fat can increase the probability of ovarian cancer. Working with a physician on a well-managed weight loss plan can reduce the risk of these health issues.


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