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5 Facts About Ovarian Cancer That Aren’t Well Known

Medically reviewed by Howard Goodman, M.D.
Written by Courtney Lee Adams
Posted on November 10, 2021

If you or someone you love has ovarian cancer, you’ve likely done some research to understand what it is, why it happens, and how it affects everyday life. Even though researchers are investigating ovarian cancer’s causes, treatments, and symptoms all the time, there’s always more to know about the condition.

Here are five ovarian cancer facts that are lesser-known and may not show up in your average search. Consider these facts as data points to help you or someone you love improve knowledge about ovarian cancer, and perhaps feel just a bit more informed while living with the condition.

Fact 1: Ovarian Cancer Doesn’t Always Originate in the Ovaries

Although its name might indicate otherwise, ovarian cancer doesn’t necessarily originate in the ovaries.

In fact, researchers in one study noted that the most common types of ovarian cancer — high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas — may originate in the fallopian tubes. The study authors noted that the finding, if confirmed, could lead to better ovarian cancer treatments that pinpoint the disease’s origin more accurately. The finding also sheds light on the difficulty of using screening techniques to find ovarian cancer early.

Ovarian cancer can also originate in the ovaries themselves, or in the peritoneum, which is the tissue lining the abdominal wall and covering most abdominal organs.

Fact 2: Ovarian Cancer Rates Are Declining

The incidence rates of ovarian cancer have been progressively declining over the past several decades. In fact, between 1985 and 2014, the rate of ovarian cancer in the U.S. fell by 29 percent, and deaths attributed to the disease dropped 33 percent from 1976 to 2015.

In addition, the rates of ovarian cancer among people under the age of 65 have fallen since 1975. Part of that decline may be attributed to the use of oral contraceptives, which have been known to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Fact 3: Mental Health Issues May Be Linked To Ovarian Cancer

People with ovarian cancer have higher rates of depression and anxiety than those in the general population.

In a 2021 analysis, scientists found that depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorders were more than three times higher in people who’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer within the past two years compared to the general population.

Learn more about how ovarian cancer can affect your mental health.

Fact 4: Exercise Can Help Improve Quality of Life During Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Physical activity has been shown to improve quality-of-life outcomes in people with ovarian cancer. If your health care team authorizes you to continue exercising throughout your treatment experience, you could see improvements in your overall outlook.

One review of previously published studies showed that “higher levels of physical activity were associated with higher health-related quality-of-life and lower levels of anxiety and depression.”

Learn more about exercising and other ways to live well with ovarian cancer.

Fact 5: Ovarian Cancer Risk May Rise With BMI

People whose weight falls within the obesity range (a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher) have an increased risk of an ovarian cancer diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society.

A 2014 analysis of previous studies evaluated the risk of ovarian cancer based on BMI. The study authors found rising BMI was linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer regardless of whether the study participants were studied prior to menopause or afterward.

Maintaining a healthy weight can potentially lower your risk of ovarian cancer, and many other cancers as well — but doing so will not completely eliminate the risk of developing the condition. If you need guidance on what to eat and whether you should exercise, speak with your doctor and get a referral to meet with a dietitian.

Posted on November 10, 2021
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Howard Goodman, M.D. is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and specializes in the surgical management of women with gynecologic cancer. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.. Learn more about him here.
Courtney Lee Adams is a writer and editor from New York City. Learn more about her here.

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