Risk Factors and Warning Signs


Ovarian Cancer

Did you know?

  • Ovarian cancer can occur at any age
  • Pap tests DO NOT screen for ovarian cancer
  • When detected early and treated properly, more than 95 percent of women survive ovarian cancer for more than five years
  • Maternal or paternal family history of ovarian cancer can be a major risk factor for the disease

What you should look for:

  • Bloating, nausea or indigestion
  • Abdominal or lower back pain
  • A change in your usual bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • An early feeling of fullness when eating
  • Increased size of abdomen and/or tightness of your clothes
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Irregular or abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

If any of these symptoms last more than two to three weeks, visit your healthcare professional for a pelvic and rectal exam, and possibly a transvaginal ultrasound and CA125 blood test.

Read more about ovarian cancer.

Breast Cancer

Did you know?

  • Simply being a woman is a major risk factor for developing breast cancer
  • One in eight women in the United States will get breast cancer in her lifetime
  • Maternal or paternal family history of breast cancer can be a major risk factor for the disease
  • If you are over age 40, have a mammogram each year
  • From age 20, women should do a monthly self breast exam immediately following a menstrual period
  • Postmenopausal women should perform a self breast exam at the same time each month

What you should look for:

  • A painless lump or thickening in the breast, often found in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast or in the underarm area
  • Bleeding or discharge from the nipple
  • Thickening or puckering of the skin over the breast

If any of these symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.

Read more about breast cancer

Cervical Cancer

Did you know?

  • A pap smear is the best way to screen for early cervical cancer
  • Cervical cancer is very curable if caught early
  • There is a vaccine that can effectively prevent cervical cancer and is recommended for girls age 9-26
  • Risk factors include cigarette smoking, early age of first intercourse, HPV infection (genital warts) and multiple sex partners

What you should look for:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Low back pain
  • Blood in your urine
  • Pelvic pain
  • Swelling in one leg
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

If any of these symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.

For more information about the cervical cancer vaccine, call 1-800-CEDARS-1.

Read more about cervical cancer

Uterine Cancer

Did you know?

  • Uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer and is very curable if caught early
  • A woman's risk for uterine cancer increases after age 40
  • Diabetes increases your risk for uterine cancer
  • Other risk factors include infertility, late menopause, never having children, obesity, estrogen replacement therapy (without progestins) and Tamoxifen® use.
  • There is no routine screening test for uterine cancer
  • A biopsy of the lining of the uterus to determine if uterine cancer is present can be done in the gynecologist's office
  • Transvaginal ultrasound may also be helpful in detecting abnormalities of the uterine lining in high-risk women

What you should look for:

  • Abnormal bloating
  • Abnormal spotting or vaginal discharge
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (between menstrual periods or after menopause)
  • Pelvic fullness or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

If any of these symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.

Read more about uterine cancer.

Screening Tests

While no test is perfect, and any test must be evaluated by a healthcare professional, some tests that are helpful in the screening and assessment of women's cancers include:

  • CA-125 (ovarian cancer) - A blood test that measures the level of a specific protein that often increases when cancer is present. Not currently recommended as a general screening test for ovarian cancer.
  • Dilation and Curettage (uterine cancer) - A procedure that scrapes the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) to see if there are cancer cells or other abnormalities
  • Transvaginal ultrasound (ovarian and uterine cancer) - A test in which sound waves create an image of a woman's pelvic organs to see if there is a tumor or other abnormal growth
  • Pap smear (cervical cancer) - An examination of cells that have been swabbed from the cervix to detect any abnormalities
  • Surgical biopsy (all women's cancers) - Removal of a piece of tissue to see if there is cancer or precancer present
  • Mammography (breast cancer) - An X-ray image of the breast that is very useful in detecting early tumors

Resources

Call 1-800-CEDARS-1 for more information, physician referrals or to seek a second opinion.