May 8th: World Ovarian Cancer Day

May 8th celebrates the World Ovarian Cancer Day, an opportunity to raise awareness and educate different communities about ovarian cancer and its symptoms. For women living with the disease, and their families and friends, World Ovarian Cancer Day is meant to build a sense of solidarity in the fight against the disease.

Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all gynecologic cancers, and is characterized around the world by a lack of awareness of symptoms and late stage diagnosis.

Ovarian cancer is diagnosed annually in nearly a quarter of a million women globally, and is responsible for 140,000 deaths each year. Statistics show that just 45% of women with ovarian cancer are likely to survive for five years compared to up to 89% of women with breast cancer. Developing and developed nations are similarly affected by this disease.

Unlike more common cancers, there are significant challenges as the disease has been largely overlooked and underfunded to this point. Symptoms which are similar to those of less serious illnesses, the absence of an early detection test, and the resulting late diagnosis and poor outcomes means there are few survivors of the disease to become advocates. Symptoms are often misdiagnosed, as they can be confused with symptoms of other less severe illnesses, particularly gastrointestinal complaints.

There is no accurate and reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. What is known at this point is that a number of factors increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer:

(1) Age: The majority of cases of ovarian cancer occur in women over the age of 55, once women have gone through menopause. Some types of ovarian cancer can appear in young women.

(2) Family history: Women who may be at a higher risk (relative to the general population) of developing ovarian cancer are those who on either their father’s or mother’s side of the family have two or more relatives who have had ovarian, breast, colon or uterine cancer.

(3) Genetics: Being a known carrier of abnormalities in the genes that help to repair cell damage also increases the risk.

(4) Other factors: Women who have not had children, never taken the contraceptive pill, who started their periods at an early age or whose menopause started at a later age than average have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women who have previously had endometriosis may be more likely to develop ovarian cancer....