Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment
In the U.S., ovarian cancer ranks 5th among all cancer deaths for women. It's most common in older women who have been through menopause. This tool will help you figure out if you are at higher risk for ovarian cancer. But it's not a complete look at all risks. For a full review of your risks, see your healthcare provider.
About your results
Changing the risk factors you can control can help lower your chance for ovarian cancer. Below is a list of these risk factors along with a brief explanation of how each risk relates to you according to the answers you gave.
About risk factors
Most women with ovarian cancer don't have any known risk factors. Still, it's important to know about risk factors. All women are at risk of developing ovarian cancer, but the risk is generally low. Family history of ovarian cancer and gene mutations are major factors that raise the risk for ovarian cancer. If this assessment shows that you have higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. The risk of developing ovarian cancer goes up with age. It usually starts after menopause. Most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in older women, but it can still occur in younger women.
Cancers of the ovaries may not cause symptoms until they are big and have spread. Even then, they tend to cause vague symptoms that can be caused by many changes that are not cancer. These symptoms include:
General belly (abdominal) discomfort or pain. This includes gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating, and cramps.
Nausea, constipation, or frequent urination
Feeling of fullness even after a light meal
Shortness of breath
Feeling tired all the time
Pain with sex
Discharge or abnormal bleeding from the vagina
If you have these symptoms—especially if they last more than a few weeks—see a healthcare provider for a complete evaluation.
If your risk for ovarian cancer is high, your provider may suggest having checkups more often. That way, if cancer develops, it can be found and treated as early as possible, when it's small and before it has spread. Some exams and tests that your healthcare provider might do are:
- Pelvic exam. This is done to look at the uterus, ovaries, bladder, and rectum. The healthcare provider looks for any problems in their shape or size. (A Pap test is used to find cancer of the cervix. It is often done along with the pelvic exam, but it doesn't help find or diagnose ovarian cancer.)
- Transvaginal ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create a picture of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. It can be used to look for ovarian tumors. It can also be done to figure out whether a growth may be cancer or a fluid-filled cyst.
- CA-125. Blood tests for ovarian cancer may include measuring the amount of CA-125. This is a protein that may be higher in women with ovarian cancer. This test is not always accurate because other diseases can raise the blood levels of CA-125. This makes a false positive. And some ovarian cancers don't make a lot of CA-125. This makes a false negative.
- Genetic testing. If you have close family members who have had breast or ovarian cancer, your provider may talk with you about genetic counseling and testing. This will tell you if you have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, or if you have HNPCC. These genetic conditions have been linked to increased risk for ovarian, breast, colorectal, and some other kinds of cancer.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional health care. Always consult with a healthcare provider for advice concerning your health. Only your healthcare provider can determine if you have ovarian cancer.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Goodman, Howard, MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Gotwals, Jessica RN BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed:
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