My grandmother died from ovarian cancer at the age of 67. My family and I had no idea what ovarian cancer was. She was already in stage 4 when she found out. The disease was so aggressive, once my grandmother was diagnosed her health declined rapidly.
Although she underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, her battle with ovarian cancer only lasted 11 months. Because of my grandmother, I have become a breast and ovarian cancer research scientist. Back then I didn’t understand the disease, but I do now. I couldn’t save my grandmother so I am passing on the facts to you so that you can be proactive about this deadly disease.
Ovarian cancer facts and figures:
• Approximately 22,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014.
• Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cells in the ovaries grow out of control and form tumors, which are abnormal tissues that serve no function.
• All women are at risk for ovarian cancer; however, roughly 90 percent of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are older than 40.
• The greatest number of ovarian cancers occurs in women aged 60 years or older.
• BRCA gene mutations can play a key role in serous ovarian cancer. In the general population, 1.4 percent of women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, while up to 40 percent of women with BRCA ½ mutations will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime.
Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause few and nonspecific symptoms that are often mistaken for more common benign conditions, such as constipation or irritable bowel.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
•Abdominal bloating or swelling
•Quickly feeling full when eating
•Discomfort in the pelvis area
•Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
•A frequent need to urinate
I’m sure that my grandmother experienced some of these common symptoms but she attributed them to something else. Things might have been different if we were educated about this disease.