Women's Health Matters

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Ovarian Cancer

Over 2800 Canadian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

Although ovarian cancer is very treatable in the early stages, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and may not cause concern until the disease is well established. Because ovarian cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages, about 1800 Canadian women die of ovarian cancer each year, making it the fourth most common cause of cancer death.

Some inherited (genetic) factors have been associated with ovarian cancer; however, these factors play a role in only a small percentage of cases. Ninety percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer do not have the genetic mutations associated with ovarian cancer or come from families identified as being at high risk for the disease. Factors that increase a woman's risk of the disease include:

  • being over 50 (although ovarian cancer can occur at any age)
  • family history of breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer
  • having been previously diagnosed with breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer
  • never having children
  • never using hormonal birth control methods such as the birth control pill
  • beginning to menstruate early
  • entering menopause late
  • a history of infertility

There is also some evidence which suggests that exposure to asbestos and talcum powder may increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer.

Learn more:

Medical description | Prevention | Diagnosis | Treatment | Living with cancer

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital