Ovarian cancer is sometimes known as the silent killer because often there are no symptoms until the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage and potentially spread to other parts of the body. According to ovariancancer.org, this is the deadliest of all gynecological cancers, with only a 39% survival rate at 10 years following diagnosis. The American Cancer Society says that there is no standard or routine screening test for ovarian cancer.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz of Oprah fame who now has his own Dr. Oz Show, there are several steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing this deadly cancer. He says one of the biggest risk factors is family history and that at least 10% of patients have a family history of the disease. Other risk factors are never having been pregnant, if you began menstruating before age 12, and if you've taken hormone replacement therapy. He says these feed the lifetime exposure to estrogen which can feed ovarian cancer.
One way to reduce your risk is taking oral contraceptives. Every time you ovulate, there is slight damage done to the ovaries when the egg is released. By suppressing ovulation, your risk of ovarian cancer is decreased. According to Dr. Barbara Goff, a gynecologic oncologist, taking oral contraceptives for 5 years can reduce your ovarian cancer risk by 50%.
Another way to reduce risk is through diet. Eating foods that can positively affect your estrogen level may help lower your risk. Whole grains contain phytochemicals which have been shown to reduce risk of ovarian cancer. Also, colorful vegetables like spinach and kale have cancer fighting flavonoids which are helpful antioxidants. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower have compounds that help to break down cancer causing chemicals in the body.
Knowing your risks and adjusting your lifestyle can make a life or death difference. New research is ongoing to help us learn more and develop screening tests for ovarian cancer because if it can be caught before it spreads, patients are more likely to survive the disease. Talk to your doctor about your family history on both your mother's and father's sides and take steps to reduce your risk.