Ovarian Cancer by the Numbers
It doesn't seem fair that an organ responsible for the miracle of life can lead to a potentially painful death—yours. And yet ovaries—responsible for reproductive function and located on each side of your pelvis—are easy targets for cancer. Worse, problems with ovaries, including ovarian cancer, can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are vague. Signs of ovarian cancer could include:
- Abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea.
- Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner.
- Changes in bowel movements.
- Increased abdominal girth.
- Tiredness or low energy.
Just the kind of symptoms you might attribute to a bad burrito. So how likely are you to get ovarian cancer? And when should you get checked for it? Here, we look at ovarian cancer by the numbers.
Approximately 22,530 women in the U.S. will receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society. That's 1.3% of all new cancer cases that will be diagnosed in 2019.
In 2019, 13,980 American women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die from the disease. This includes all stages and types of ovarian cancer, and also takes into account women who have undergone different cancer treatments.
Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women in the U.S. This disease accounts for more female reproductive cancer deaths than any other type of reproductive cancer. (By the way, the leading cause of death among American women is heart disease.)
About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years of age or older. Older age and family history are the main factors that increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer are encouraged to begin ovarian cancer screenings at the age of 30.
18 and Older
Reports the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition: "Although there is no consistently-reliable screening test to detect ovarian cancer, the following tests are available and should be offered to women, especially those women at high risk for the disease:
- Pelvic Exam: Women age 18 and older should have a mandatory annual vaginal exam. Women age 35 and older should receive an annual rectovaginal exam (physician inserts fingers in the rectum and vagina simultaneously to feel for abnormal swelling and to detect tenderness).
- Transvaginal Sonography: This ultrasound, performed with a small instrument placed in the vagina, is appropriate, especially for women at high risk for ovarian cancer, or for those with an abnormal pelvic exam.
- CA-125 Test: This blood test determines if the level of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells, has increased in the blood of a woman at high risk for ovarian cancer, or a woman with an abnormal pelvic examination."
Ovarian cancer accounts for 2.5% of cancers in women. It's also the 11th most common cancer among women. A woman's lifetime risk for developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 78, but additional factors, such as family history or never being pregnant, can increase this risk.
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer survival rates are much lower than other forms of cancer, which may be due in part to how challenging it is to detect. The average age of death from ovarian cancer is 70. The age of death from ovarian cancer depends on the stage in which it was diagnosed, the age the woman was when diagnosed, and her treatment options at the time of detection.
14.8% of ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. This means ovarian cancer was detected before it spread to other parts of the body, such as the uterus or lymph nodes. Women who were diagnosed in the early stages had a higher survival rate than those who were diagnosed in the late stages, or after the disease had spread.
About 47% of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a 5-year relative survival rate, including all stages combined. Women who were diagnosed in the localized stage (ovarian cancer hasn't spread), regional stage (ovarian cancer has spread to surrounding organs), and distant stage (ovarian cancer has spread to other parts of the body) are included in this calculation.
About 1.3% of women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at one point in their lifetime. However, overall, the number of cases and deaths from ovarian cancer have been declining in the U.S. in recent years.
Of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, only 14.9% were diagnosed in the localized stage. This means the cancer was confined to the ovaries themselves and hadn't yet spread to other parts of the body.
About 90% of ovarian cancers are identified as epithelial tumors. These are tumors that form on the outer layers of the ovaries. There are many subtypes of epithelial tumors, which are categorized by the way they grow and other characteristics.
1 in 870
Approximately 1 in 870 women who are 40 years of age have a probability of developing ovarian cancer in the next 10 years. The rate of risk increases slightly for women every 10 years they age.
About 20% of ovarian cancer cases are mostly attributed to genetics. The majority of these cases were due to BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutated genes. These mutations are rare but genetic testing is recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network for women with high risk.
Ovarian cancer risk is reduced by about 35% for women who use oral contraceptives for five to nine years total. This reduced risk continues for at least 10 years after women stop taking birth control, but risk does increase slightly as women age.
There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer and each kind is classified by its type of cell. All types of ovarian cancer start from one of three different types of cells: epithelial, germ cell, or stromal.
Women who have used or taken menopausal hormones have a 20% higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who have never taken these hormones. This includes hormones that provide estrogen alone or that provide both estrogen and progesterone.
51% of ovarian cancer carcinomas are diagnosed at stage III, which is an advanced stage of the disease. Stage III means the cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to the lining of the abdomen or to the lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen.
63.5% of ovarian cancer patients who are 20 years of age or older and were diagnosed with stage I or II received chemotherapy as part of their treatment plan. In other cases, patients may have had radiation therapy, surgery, or a combination of these treatments.
Women who carried a child to term and gave birth reduced their risk of ovarian cancer by 40%. Women reduced their risk by an additional 14% for each child they had after their first. In most cases, this reduction in risk is only related to endometrioid and clear cell carcinoma ovarian cancers.
The death rate for ovarian cancer declined by 2% each year from 2007 to 2016. The decline in this death rate may be attributed to reductions in prevalence of the disease and advancements in treatment.
Researchers from Queens University have developed a test they say could spot ovarian cancer "two years earlier" than current methods. Since ovarian cancer is diagnosed at the late stage—when not much can be done—"developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential," Dr. Rachel Shaw, research information manager at Cancer Research UK, told the BBC.
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