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Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects one or both of your ovaries and usually occurs later in life. It can be hard to find sometimes, but treatment is available.

What’s Ovarian Cancer?

Your ovaries are 2 reproductive organs that store eggs and produce estrogen and other hormones. Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that attacks one or both of your ovaries. Ovarian cancer happens when the DNA in a cell stops working correctly, creating abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably. These cancer cells can form tumors and if left untreated can spread to other parts of your body.

How common is ovarian cancer?

About 1 in 75 people who have ovaries will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point in their lifetime. It’s a type of cancer that mostly affects people later in life, usually after menopause.

Ovarian cancer is very serious, especially if it’s not found early. Ovarian cancer is the 5th deadliest cancer for cis women. About 21,000 people are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 14,000 people die from the disease each year in the U.S.

Am I at risk for ovarian cancer?

There are some things that can put you at a higher risk for ovarian cancer, including

  • being over 55 years old

  • a family history of breast, gynecological (including ovarian), or colon cancer

  • personal history of breast cancer

  • certain mutations to genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2

  • never having given birth

  • having a body mass index (BMI) over 30

  • infertility

  • endometriosis

  • never having been on the pill

How can I protect myself from ovarian cancer?

Early detection and treatment are important, so getting regular check-ups and health exams and knowing what symptoms to look out for are good ways to protect yourself. Unfortunately, there aren’t any great screening tests for ovarian cancer, especially for people who don’t have factors that put them at high risk.

If you have a high risk, like an inherited gene mutation, you can have your ovaries removed, which really lowers your chances of developing cancer. Though that comes with its own risks, and would take away your ability to release eggs. If you’re concerned about ovarian cancer because of your personal risks, talk with your doctor about the best ways to stay healthy.

Birth control pills that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin lower your risk of ovarian cancer. The longer you take the pill, the less likely it is that you’ll develop ovarian cancer, even after you stop taking it. Breastfeeding might also lower your risk.

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