Ovarian Cancer Risks and What You Can Do

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month so we thought we’d dive into some facts on this worrisome disease. It turns out, the information can be a bit murky.

First, some facts on Ovarian Cancer

The Pap doesn’t test for it.

Did you think it did? We did. The Pap test is actually better at detecting cervical cancer at an early stage. Very rarely, ovarian cancer can be detected in a Pap, but only if it is a very advanced stage. During a pelvic exam, a doctor can feel the ovaries and uterus for size but this is not very good at detecting ovarian cancer early on.

A woman’s chance of invasive ovarian cancer is one in 75.

Symptoms often don’t show until it is more advanced

Unfortunately, noticeable symptoms could mean that the cancer has advanced. Which brings us to…

If you have symptoms, don’t wait to see a doctor!

If you are experiencing abdominal bloating, pelvic pressure or pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and/or urinary symptoms, GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR. Even if it turns out there is another issue, it’s best for them to screen for ovarian cancer to eliminate that as a possibility. Your life is worth it!

How do they test for Ovarian Cancer?

The scary-sounding Transvaginal Ultrasound uses sound waves to look at the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries by inserting a wand into the vagina. For women who have had children, this shouldn’t feel more invasive than having your cervix checked for dilation! The other method is checking for CA-125 levels from a blood test.

Ovarian Cancer Risks


Although it can occur at any age, Ovarian Cancer is most common in women aged 50-60.


Has someone in your family had ovarian or breast cancer? If you are concerned, it doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor to screen you.


The evidence seemed a little loose on this but Cancer Research UK states that 3% of ovarian cancers in the UK are smoking related. There is also a large percentage of a certain type of ovarian cancer in smokers.

Factors to Reduce Risks

Oral Contraceptives

Women who have taken oral contraceptives (birth control pill) for more than five years actually have a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who have never taken them.


Good for your baby AND good for you. Ovarian Cancer risks are 24% lower in women who have breastfed.

Get a genetic test

If you know that your family has a history of Ovarian Cancer, you can have a genetic test performed to see if you have or carry the genetic mutation for this disease. It may be a bit nerve-wracking, but might help you make a decision about screening or possible preemptive surgery.

Want to test your knowledge?

Think you know a lot about your Ovarian Cancer risks, how it can be detected and what can be done about it? There’s even more info than you can handle in this quiz from the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Take the quiz!