Ovarian Cancer Myths and Misconceptions

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2021

There is a lot of information about ovarian cancer out there. Not all of it is correct. There are many myths and misconceptions about the disease. Knowing what is factual and what is not can help you understand the condition, how to speak to friends and family, and speak to your doctor about the latest treatments.

Myths about ovarian cancer

Myth: Pap smears screen for ovarian cancer.

Pap smears screen for cervical cancer, not all kinds of gynecologic cancers. There is currently no recommended screening tool for ovarian cancer and no test that can detect it in its early stages.1

Myth: Ovarian cysts are always a bad sign.

Fact: Most ovarian cysts are benign, or not cancerous. The formation of cysts can be a normal process during menstruation. After menopause, cysts might be more of a concern. While ovarian cysts should always be monitored, most are not related to cancer.1

Myth: Anyone can get ovarian cancer. There are no risk factors.

Fact: While anyone with ovaries can get ovarian cancer, there are risk factors for the disease. These risk factors include:2

  • Genetic mutations
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Reproductive and menstrual history
  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
  • Obesity

However, limited access to medical care and lack of awareness about ovarian cancer can also contribute to poorer health outcomes.2

Myth: All hospitals are the same when it comes to treating ovarian cancer.

If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, especially advanced ovarian cancer, you will likely need additional support beyond your primary care doctor and obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). It is important to have a team that includes care from a variety of healthcare professionals. This may include genetic counselors, pain management specialists, social workers, and palliative care, specialists. Find a hospital or well-ranked cancer center that is able to offer all parts of cancer treatment.2

Myth: If you have advanced ovarian cancer, it cannot be treated.

Many women with advanced ovarian cancer get treatment. While it may not be curable, it is certainly treatable.1

Myth: There are specific symptoms you should look for with ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at more advanced stages because there is no 1 specific sign or symptom of early-stage ovarian cancer. The symptoms tend to be nonspecific and are things a person would not usually be alarmed by. These are things like constipation, weight gain, or fatigue, so it often does not cause concern early on.1

Myth: Support is limited for gynecologic cancers, especially ovarian cancer.

There is a lot of support for those living with ovarian cancer. The stigma of gynecologic cancers is fading, and many hospitals and cancer centers have support groups for people living with the condition and their families. Plus, there are many advocacy organizations and social workers who can help you navigate support options.2

Things to consider

Your doctor can also answer any questions you might have about your disease and related issues. If you are not sure of whether something is true or not, ask your treatment team about it and share your concerns with them. They will be able to clear up any misunderstandings. This can help ease your concerns and provide you with accurate information that can help you make informed decisions about your health.

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