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Are You at Risk for Ovarian Cancer?

Are You at Risk for Ovarian Cancer?

While we can’t predict with certainty who will get which disease, we do know what increases a person’s chances of getting certain diseases. These are called risk factors. Some are within your control, and some aren’t, but knowing them can help you avoid the factors you can, get screened for the disease when possible, and pay closer attention to the signs of onset.

At Choice Cancer Care in Texas, our team of cancer specialists believes that knowledge is power. And the more you know about your risk factors for cancer, the better chance there is to prevent it or catch it early. Here, we take a deeper dive into the risk factors for ovarian cancer to give you important information so you can understand it better and possibly avoid it.

A word about risk factors

Cancer risk factors don’t provide a crystal ball that tells you what’s in your future. You may have one or several risk factors for a particular cancer and never get it. Or you may get a particular cancer despite the fact that you have none of the risk factors. 

The only thing risk factors can do is give you an idea of the things that might increase your likelihood of getting a certain type of cancer — but it’s a matter of probability, not certainty. Still, it’s one of the most effective tools for early detection.

Types of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer, like all cancers, occurs when your cells grow uncontrollably. Your ovaries, the glands that produce eggs and your female hormones, are made up of three different kinds of cells, and each is susceptible to cancer.

  1. Epithelial cells are found on the outer surface of your ovaries
  2. Stromal cells are in the tissue that produces hormones
  3. Germ cells produce eggs

Epithelial ovarian cancer is by far the most common type, accounting for up to 90% of all malignant ovarian cancers, so that’s where we’ve focused our discussion of risk factors.

Know your ovarian cancer risk factors

Tumors that form on the epithelial surface of your ovaries aren’t always cancerous. In fact, many tumors are benign and won’t spread or cause any health problems. But knowing your risk factors will help you — and us — watch for them so we can test them and treat them accordingly. 

Age

Getting older is a risk factor for many diseases, including ovarian cancer. It’s rare to find ovarian cancer in a young woman, as it almost always occurs after menopause.

Weight

Like age, weight is a common factor in the development of disease, especially cancer. If your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher, you have an increased chance of getting ovarian cancer. 

Hormone replacement therapy

It’s common for women to take hormone replacement therapy to ease the symptoms of menopause, but if you do, you’re more likely to get ovarian cancer than if you don’t. 

Childbirth

If and when you have children plays a role in your chances of getting ovarian cancer. Never having children at all increases your risk, and starting your family after you’re 35 years old also bumps up your chances.

Fertility treatments

There are mixed messages about whether or not fertility drugs used during in vitro fertilization procedures may increase your risk of ovarian cancer. Some studies say there’s a direct link, and others claim there’s no evidence. To be safe, if you’re undergoing IVF treatment, or if you have in the past, we monitor you more closely for ovarian cancer.

Breast cancer survival

It seems cruel that having had breast cancer in the past and beating it would put you at risk for ovarian cancer as well, but the fact is that some women with a strong family history of breast cancer may have inherited mutated genes — specifically, the genes called BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 — that are linked to both breast and ovarian cancer. 

About one-fourth of all ovarian cancer cases stem from family cancer syndrome, which occurs when a particular type of cancer runs in the family. 

Ovarian cancer treatments

At Choice Cancer Care, we offer hope and evidence-based treatments for ovarian cancer. We never take a cookie-cutter approach when it comes to caring for you during your cancer journey. We take into account all that makes you unique, including your family medical history, your personal medical history, your symptoms, the stage of the cancer, and your deeply held beliefs and concerns. 

Together, we develop a personalized treatment plan that may include any combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted medications, and hormone therapy

If you have any of the risk factors we’ve described or suspect you have ovarian cancer, we urge you to come in for a complete evaluation. Schedule an appointment at any of our five Texas locations in Plano, Lewisville, Irving, Southlake, and Decatur. Just call or book online at your convenience.

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