7 Myths About Ovarian Cancer

And The Truth Behind Them

When you think of dif­fer­ent kinds of can­cers, you might remem­ber spe­cif­ic facts about them. 

You might know that you should talk to your physi­cian if you feel a lump in your breast, that lung can­cer is typ­i­cal­ly caused by smok­ing, or that the age to get your first colonoscopy is now 45

Com­pared to oth­er com­mon forms of can­cer, many peo­ple don’t know a lot about ovar­i­an can­cer — and some­times, what they know isn’t actu­al­ly true. 

In the last 20 years, the rate has been decreas­ing — drop­ping 3% each year from​2015 to 2019. 

Despite being the sec­ond most com­mon gyne­co­log­ic can­cer in the US, there are a lot of myths and mis­con­cep­tions about ovar­i­an can­cer. Here are the real­i­ties behind them. 

Myth #1: Pap smears can detect ovar­i­an cancer. 

Real­i­ty: Pap smears are good at detect­ing cer­vi­cal can­cer, but they do not test for ovar­i­an can­cer. Ovar­i­an can­cer does not typ­i­cal­ly show up in rou­tine pap smear screen­ings. For an ovar­i­an can­cer diag­no­sis, two spe­cif­ic tests are used: a trans­vagi­nal ultra­sound (TVUS) or a CA-125 blood test. 

Myth #2: Only old­er women are affect­ed by ovar­i­an cancer. 

Real­i­ty: It’s true that ovar­i­an can­cer is more com­mon in women between the ages of 55 and 64 years old, but it can affect women of all ages — even younger adults. It’s impor­tant to know the symp­toms and risk fac­tors that can come with ovar­i­an can­cer, no mat­ter how old you are. 

Myth #3: Ovar­i­an can­cer has no symptoms. 

Real­i­ty: Ovar­i­an can­cer is often called the silent killer” because its ear­ly symp­toms are very sub­tle. For a long time, peo­ple thought that there were no symp­toms asso­ci­at­ed with ear­ly ovar­i­an can­cer, but there are some symp­toms that are more com­mon in women who have ovar­i­an can­cer than those who don’t: 

  • Pain in your pelvis or abdomen 
  • Bloat­ing 
  • Hav­ing trou­ble eat­ing or feel­ing full too quickly 
  • Fre­quent or urgent urination

Ovar­i­an can­cer symp­toms can be over­looked or ignored as unim­por­tant. If you are expe­ri­enc­ing any of these symp­toms, talk to your Duly pri­ma­ry care physi­cian or gyne­col­o­gist

Myth #4: Only women with a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of ovar­i­an can­cer are at risk. 

Real­i­ty: Most ovar­i­an can­cer cas­es are diag­nosed in women who have no known fam­i­ly his­to­ry of the dis­ease. But, hav­ing a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of the dis­ease or cer­tain genet­ic muta­tions (like BRCA1 and BRCA2) can increase your life­time risk of devel­op­ing ovar­i­an can­cer your­self. Talk to your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian about your family’s health his­to­ry for dif­fer­ent can­cers to ensure you receive the prop­er screen­ings when needed. 

Myth #5: If you have ovar­i­an can­cer, you won’t be able to get pregnant. 

Real­i­ty: You can still get preg­nant if you have or have had ovar­i­an can­cer, but it may be more dif­fi­cult. Treat­ment for ovar­i­an can­cer, such as some surg­eries or chemother­a­py, can affect how easy it is to get preg­nant as well as increase the risk of your preg­nan­cy. How­ev­er, there are many options avail­able, such as fer­til­i­ty preser­va­tion or using a sur­ro­gate, that can help peo­ple with ovar­i­an can­cer have chil­dren if they wish to do so. Before start­ing any form of treat­ment, talk to your can­cer care team about any ques­tions or con­cerns you might have about future fer­til­i­ty or pregnancy. 

Myth #6: Hav­ing a hys­terec­to­my elim­i­nates the risk of ovar­i­an cancer. 

Real­i­ty: While a hys­terec­to­my (removal of the uterus) can reduce your risk of ovar­i­an can­cer, it does not get rid of the risk entire­ly. Get­ting your ovaries removed also low­ers your risk, but there is still a chance of devel­op­ing ovar­i­an can­cer. It might seem like not hav­ing ovaries should mean you are unable to devel­op ovar­i­an can­cer. It is still pos­si­ble because left­over ovar­i­an cells can impact your peri­toneum — the tis­sue that lines your abdomen — even after surgery. 

Myth #7: Ovar­i­an cysts always lead to cancer. 

Real­i­ty: Not all ovar­i­an cysts are can­cer­ous. In fact, most ovar­i­an cysts are benign and go away on their own with­out caus­ing harm. How­ev­er, some cysts may need fur­ther test­ing, mon­i­tor­ing, or sur­gi­cal removal, espe­cial­ly if they don’t resolve after a few months or are par­tic­u­lar­ly large. 

Mov­ing Past Myths and Misconceptions 

There may be a lot of myths sur­round­ing ovar­i­an can­cer, but it’s impor­tant to sep­a­rate fact from fic­tion. When you know more about symp­toms and risk fac­tors, you can make informed deci­sions about your health and seek appro­pri­ate med­ical care. 

Armed with accu­rate infor­ma­tion, take some time to talk to your loved ones about ovar­i­an can­cer risks and symp­toms. With the cor­rect infor­ma­tion, we can all work togeth­er toward ear­li­er detec­tion and bet­ter treat­ment options.

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