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Ovarian Cancer - A Discussion by OB/GYN Nefertari Owens, MD


The reproductive system is made of a number of different organs in women. The ovaries are a part of the reproductive system which produces hormones such as estrogen and progesterone during a woman’s reproductive years. During a woman’s lifetime, ovaries can develop cysts, become infected, and develop cancers.

Ovarian cancer is an uncommon but deadly cancer when it occurs in women. It can occur at any age, but is more commonly diagnosed in women in their 50’s or 60’s. Unfortunately, there are no effective screening strategies for ovarian cancer and most women when diagnosed typically are diagnosed at a later disease stage.

Thankfully, there is some good news. Research shows there are a few effective ways which may prevent ovarian cancer including:

  • Taking oral contraceptive pills
  • Breast feeding
  • Prophylactic removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries (reserved for women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to inherited genetic syndromes such as BRCA or Lynch Syndrome)


There are a few risk factors for ovarian cancer which are important to note including:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Older age (after 35) at time of first child birth
  • Inherited genetic mutations such as BRCA and genes contributing to Lynch Syndrome
  • Early age at menarche (start of menstrual cycles) or later age at menopause (absence of menstrual cycles for at least one year)
  • Excessive estrogen exposure (estrogen from hormone therapy or  obesity)


Signs of ovarian cancer can often be incredibly vague and are often confused with other diseases, which can lead to a delay in diagnosis. Some common symptoms include:

  • Increasing abdominal girth
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Increasing pain or pressure in pelvic area


It’s important to make an appointment to speak with your OB/GYN if you experience symptoms and have any concerns that you may have ovarian cancer.  If you have a concerning family history and are worried about ovarian cancer and your risk, your doctor can assist you with a referral to see a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor will discuss your family history and offer potential testing for inheritable genetic mutations. Your doctor can also discuss prophylactic strategies which may prevent ovarian cancer if they feel a course of action is necessary. Learning about ovarian cancer is the first step in detecting the disease early. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns and visit the American Cancer Society’s website to learn more.  


Nefertari Alisha Owens, MD, earned her Medical Degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and completed her Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ.  Dr. Owens specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is providing care to patients in Middletown and Monroe.