CBS News: Detecting Ovarian Cancer

The following is information from the American Cancer Society:

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for ovarian cancer in the United States are for 2012:

  • About 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer
  • About 15,500 deaths from ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer in women (not counting skin cancer). It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women. About half of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 60 or older. It is more common in white women that African-American women.

A woman's risk of getting invasive ovarian cancer in her lifetime is about 1 in 71.

Her lifetime chance of dying from invasive ovarian cancer is about 1 in 95.

Ways to find ovarian cancer:

Regular women's health exams

During a pelvic exam the doctor will feel the woman's organs to check their size and shape. But most ovarian tumors are hard to find early because the ovaries are deep within the body and it isn't easy for the doctor to feel them. While the Pap test helps to find cervical cancer early, it is not really useful for finding ovarian cancer at an early stage.

See a doctor if you have symptoms

Early cancers of the ovaries tend to cause symptoms that are more often caused by other things.

These symptoms might include:

  • Swelling of the stomach (abdomen) or bloating caused by a build-up of fluid or a tumor
  • Pelvic pressure or stomach pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Having to urinate often or feeling like you have to go right away

Most of these symptoms can also be caused by problems other than cancer. While these symptoms can be more severe when they are caused by ovarian cancer, that isn't always true. What is most important is that they are a change from how a woman usually feels. If you have symptoms that you can't explain nearly every day for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor right away.

Screening tests and exams are used to find a disease such as cancer in people who don't have any symptoms. Women with a very high risk of ovarian cancer (such as those with a strong family history of the disease) may be screened with ultrasound and with blood tests. But early studies of women at average risk of ovarian cancer show that these tests did not lower the number of deaths caused by ovarian cancer. For this reason, these tests are not used for routine screening of women who don't have strong risk factors.