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Am I at risk for ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death for women in the United States. One in every hundred women die of ovarian cancer each year. Consider the following factors to access your risk and consult accordingly with your physician:


Most ovarian cancer patients are 55 or older, with the median age group of patients being 55-63. Once you pass your reproductive years, your genetics often change. Women in this age range should be sure to have yearly check-ups. Women taking hormone therapy during menopause may be at a higher risk. Those who use these treatments for five or more years are a much higher risk then those that use alternative treatments, a potential negative consequence of increased estrogen. Women who’ve had a hysterectomy may also be at a slightly higher risk. Be sure to share all new or odd symptoms with your physician–since the ovaries are by the bladder, some of its symptoms include digestion or urinary problems.

Fertility & Reproductive History

The use of fertility drugs can increase a woman’s chance of ovarian cancer. Ask your doctor about the risk factors with each medication. This is going to help you make an informed choice on your health and your future.

Encouragingly, expectant mothers younger than age 26 often have a lower risk of ovarian cancer. This includes all mothers within this age group that have carried a pregnancy to term. The mother’s risk decreases with each pregnancy carried to term. Women having children after 35, however, increase their risk with each full-term pregnancy.

Family History

A family history of ovarian cancer may also put you at higher risk. Breast cancer in your family may also indicate whether you’ll encounter cancer of the ovaries. Unfortunately, these two cancers run through family trees. Discussing your family history with your doctor can be a good assessment of whether you’re at increased risk. Keep in mind, too, that ovarian cancer just doesn’t run down your mother’s side of the family tree—it can also be passed down through your father’s genes.

For more in-depth information on ovarian cancer symptoms, treatment and support, click here.

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Photo Credit: Anthony Tran/Unsplash

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