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Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. It’s ironic that this would be the month that one of my good friends, at age 55, would be having her surgery for ovarian cancer. In retrospect, she had all the symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Getting full quickly with meals, and
  • Going more often to the bathroom to urinate

But she never complained and/or talked about it. She just put up with it and chalked all this up to just “getting older.”  She even had a positive family history; her father had bowel cancer, which along with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, is associated with getting ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is not one of the big three for women in menopause (lung, breast and colon cancer, which make up over 50 percent of cancers in women). There are about 22,000 new cases each year and 13,850 deaths. But ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal. Why? Because 70 percent of the time it is silent until it has spread.

Women and their doctors need to be more aware of this silent killer and find it early. I have always suggested to women over the age of 50 to have a pelvic ultrasound every two to three years to increase the chances of finding it. After all, the ovaries are only the size of the tip of my thumb in young women and after menopause, they become even smaller – about the size of the tip of my little finger. You can imagine how difficult that can be to feel during an exam, especially if a woman is heavy. But a new study suggests that ultrasound won’t be as helpful in saving lives as I had hoped.

What helps? Being on the birth control pill helps reduce the risk. Talk with family members. If you have a strong family history of breast, ovarian or bowel cancer, talk with your doctor and get tested to see if you have genes that put you at increased risk for ovarian cancer. And if you do, after you have had your children, see about having your ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower your risk of getting this silent killer.

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Image credit: MesserWoland / Wiki Commons

Read more: Cancer, Gynecology, Health, Healthy Aging, Menopause, Stay Well With Dr. Seibel, Videos, Videos,

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Dr. Mache Seibel

Women's health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers' critical needs from weight control to HRTmenopause and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is founder of My Menopause Magazine on the Apple Newsstand ( Download the Free App and first Free issue. He works with companies and organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his award-winning website to sign up for his free monthly newsletter.


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5:24AM PST on Nov 16, 2013

1 in 70 women in America will get uterian cancer.

12:06AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013


1:39AM PST on Feb 7, 2013


12:22AM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

Thanks for the info.

2:32PM PDT on May 22, 2012

good reminder--and quite informative

3:00PM PDT on Apr 26, 2012

thanks :)

5:42AM PDT on Apr 26, 2012

Thanks for the article.

6:56AM PST on Feb 24, 2012

I lost a good friend to this killer. She had a very large tumor in pelvic area. So it may be wise to check pelvis in much the same way as a self breast exam. Also tune into skin cancer; on your birthday, check your BD suit. I just had Mohs procedure for skin cancer on head; it was all removed and I will live. Yeah!! A sis had the same surgery 14 years ago. A friend just wrote that she had procedures to remove two skin cancers. (She got the bill before she recd surgery results!). The lit says skin cancer is an epidemic. Type in 'skin cancer.'

2:48AM PST on Feb 24, 2012


12:32PM PST on Jan 31, 2012

Thanks for the reminder--I'd lost track of the key symptoms once it was ruled out a couple of decades ago...which doesn't mean never

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