As much we worry about our children, we can’t forget about the health of our mothers. That’s why Family HealthCare Associates would like to recognize “National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month” by encouraging all of our women patients to educate themselves on a disease that kills more than 13,000 women every year, and ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. If you believe you, or someone you love, might be at risk, here some facts you should know.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is when cancerous cells develop in or near the ovaries, which are small organs that store eggs (on either side of the uterus) and produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. There are many types of ovarian cancer, and unfortunately there are no reliable screening tests, which is why getting regular pelvic exams is essential to detect it as early as possible.

When it comes to surviving ovarian cancer, it will depend on factors like the type of ovarian cancer you have, the stage it was detected, as well as your age and overall health. The good news is when ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, it’s highly treatable. Over 90% of women survive when its detected in its earliest stages. However, in around 80 percent of cases, the disease isn’t detected until it’s in an advanced stage—and if the cancer is caught in Stage III or higher?

The survival rate can be as low as 28%.

That’s why if you are in a high risk group for developing the disease—like women who smoke, are overweight, or have a history of cancer (themselves), or in in their family—it’s important to get regular health checkups. That also goes for women who have had fertility treatment, hormone replacement therapy, or have had a child later in life.

What Women Can Do To Lower Their Risk

A doctor may order a blood test or genetic testing, while taking birth control pills may also decrease risk of getting ovarian cancer, possibly reducing it by 50%. Although, taking birth control may raise the chance for developing other forms of cancer.

Some high risk women may choose to have a hysterectomy, a tubal ligation, or have their ovaries removed—but if they want to preserve their reproductive organs, another option is undergoing a screening by transvaginal ultrasonography (although the procedure’s effectiveness is not 100% clear). Talk to your doctor about the option that is best for you, and always let them know if you develop potential symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, or frequent and urgent urination.

Like all forms of cancer, the effects of a diagnosis stretch far beyond the women who get the disease; it affects everyone who loves them—so don’t wait. If you believe you are risk of developing ovarian cancer, Family HealthCare Associates encourages you to make it a priority by scheduling an exam with one of our physicians today.