Misconceptions About Ovarian Cancer
Last updated: May 2023
There are many myths or misconceptions about ovarian cancer. Here are a few to be aware of as someone navigates a possible diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer only affects older women
One myth is that ovarian cancer is only found in older women. Ovarian cancer is more common in women over 50. However, it can affect a woman of any age.1
My diagnosis came at just 37 and was stage 3. No matter someone's age, ovarian cancer is possible. Everyone with ovaries needs to know and be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Always consult a doctor if you are experiencing any unusual changes in your body.
A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer is about 1 in 78, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).2
Pap smears and annual OBGYN exam will detect ovarian cancer
Another misconception is that a Pap smear will screen for and detect ovarian cancer. Pap smears were created to detect cervical cancer only.3
It is important to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Symptoms are often common and can be attributed to many other ailments. Bloating, feeling full quickly, abdominal pain, and urinary urgency can be attributed to many other things.4
You must listen to your body and consult a doctor if you experience these symptoms. Note how often they are experienced and if they persist over a few weeks.
Ovarian cancer is a loud disease
Ovarian cancer is frequently referred to as a silent disease or killer due to the common symptoms most women experience. Some with ovarian cancer can experience symptoms that tend to be mild at first and come and go. They may become more severe over time. Be aware of all the signs and symptoms, and seek consultation with your doctor.5
Request testing or a referral to a gynecological oncologist to rule out ovarian cancer. A gynecologist can start by doing a pelvic exam, blood work, and a vaginal ultrasound.
You must have a family history of ovarian cancer
Having a family history of ovarian cancer does increase risk, but many ovarian cancer diagnoses have no family history.1
It is important to understand your family history of any and all cancers and diseases. Sharing this information with your doctors may help with early diagnoses.
Ovarian cancer is always fatal
It is not always fatal. The survival rate for ovarian cancer depends on the stage at which it is diagnosed.6
It is so important to listen to any changes in your body and persistent symptoms. Ideally, ovarian cancer has the best survival rate when diagnosed and treated at an early stage. When ovarian cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, the 5-year survival rate drops. Ovarian cancer is generally diagnosed at later stages and, therefore, has a higher mortality rate than some other cancers.6
Raising awareness and detecting ovarian cancer early is our best course of action until there is a cure. If someone has a family history of breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer, they should seek expert advice on how to monitor and evaluate the chances of ovarian cancer.1
Do you have things that helped you cope through your ovarian cancer journey?