Why Are Women Talk About Breast Cancer but Not Ovarian

Updated on December 03, 2008
S.G. asks from Asheville, NC
11 answers

As an 18 year survivor of Ovarian Cancer, I get a little angry that there is a lot of hype about Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer but little is said about Ovarian Cancer. Why? Ovarian Cancer is a bigger killer the the other 2 cancers. My husband says "Thank God that I had Phuemonia because it brought all the symtoms for Ovarian Cancer to alert my Family Practitioner, who sent me to my OB/GYN Doctor a month early who touch my stomach and felt a huge tumor so he ordered test on my uterus but also ordered test on my ovarian and sent me to an OB/GYN who specialized in Female Cancers. Usually when the symtoms for Ovarian Cancer shows a woman has one foot in her grave. I would like to sound off about this Cancer because it is so deadly and I want more women to know about it

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So What Happened?

I got go positive reponse and to all of you thank you for your input on this subject. One reason I got so angry is one lady who had her Chemo with me for Breast Cancer then 2 years later she got Ovarian and Colon Cancer. She had three boys near my two children who were 22 and 20, but she also had a young daughter who wasn't quite 10. Well Sarah became pregrant while going thru Chemo. She was all upset because she thought that since her Breasts were removed that she couldn't get pregrant. After my Chemo, I went back to work as a visiting Nurse for Hospice. I became at request Sarah's Nurse during her last fight with Cancer and we became so close that she asked if I would be her daughter's female friend and I have been Becky's Older Female Friend since. Last week, I got an email saying that Becky had been fighting Ovarian Cancer and would I come out to Kansas to spend time with her, but right now I'm not allowed because of Lumbar Surgery almost a month ago. When her dad told me that her husband had a lot of Medical expenses because when Becky started to have problems her insurance would not pay because she was only 27 and her family doctor would not do the tests because most of the tests like the CA125 and Ultrasound which can detect that she had the Cancer Gene are not paid for unless you are in the high risk for maybe having Ovarian Cancer. From the time I was diagnosed to having my Cancer my doctor started talking to my mom and my father's sibling to see if my cancer was heritary which my mom and her mother had several of the female cancers and my mom's mom's mother's youngest sister was still alive to let us know that my great-grandmother and 2 of her sisters had some type of cancer to the female organs. Anyway in my daughter's case she goes in every other year until she turns 40 then every year because the doctors who worked withmy case have on her records that she is at high risk. I don't understand why Becky's doctors didn't do the same thing. My son who is a Physicians Aide in the AF told me how my Ovarian Cancer can effect him any of my nephews and my grandson. Ovarian Cancer can effect my son as he might have prostate cancer earlier than usual plus he can pass the gene on to his sons and daughters. If you have heritary Ovarian Cancer it could come from your father's side(this is why you need to know your family history and with Breast Cancer if it is heritary it only comes from your mom's side) We need to get our Congress to help to get the Insurance Companies to pay for CA125 Test and Ultrasound can detect this cancer at an earlier stage just like Mammogram can detect Breast Cancer early. And there needs to be information and awareness made available. I'm 62 and I can remember when Mammograms were new. I was lucky because my mom was diagnosed with her 1st Ovarian Cancer in December of 1945 she was 6 months pregrant with my twin and me. She had her surgery and Radiation 6 months after we were born, then she had Breast Cancer in 1952(A wonderful Doctor by the name of M D Anderson treated her) and then in the Spring of 1963 she had uterus and ovarian cancer. My mom died on Feb 20, 2003 after seeing her 90th Birthday in Dec of 2002. My doctors believe that she was the longest survivor of both Ovarian and Breast Cancer and I believe that I was lucky because I might of inherited my cancer from her but I believe I inherited her survivor gene, too. I am physically unable to do a march or walk, I do go around locally and speak out about Ovarian. But Ovarian Cancer seems to hit most women between 30 to 50 and I figured that if I talked about it on this site that I might prevent anymore little children to grow up without a mom that is what Becky's three little daughters have to do now. They have 2 grandfathers, 1 daddy, Becky's 3 brothers and 2 brothers on their father's side, but both of their grandmothers are deceased. Right now there are no women in their lives. Maybe by the time that they get to be young mothers like I believe most of you all are we will know as much about Ovarian Cancer as we know about Breast Cancer. S.

More Answers



answers from Wilmington on

Edit note: Other Mamasource readers need to share their opinions and perspectives on this.
Edit note #2: Re: Ca-125 testing: A physician friend had a patient who had a negative Ca-125 last January and was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in March.
Edit note #3: Also, we don't want to forget the even rarer cancer of the fallopian tubes.

Dear S.,
Congratulations and thank God for your 18 year survival!!!
You have asked some excellent questions.
I understand your concerns regarding the disproportion of "awareness" between breast and ovarian cancer.
Yes, it's very true. Ovarian cancer has a much lower 5 year survival rate than most breast cancers. What's worse, as you and your husband pointed out, is that usually by the time it begins to show symptoms - or the patient and the doctors recognize the symptoms, it has spread and advanced to dangerous stages. With it's lower survival rate, it is unlikely that the woman will be sick as long.
However, nowadays, woman are definitely beating ovarian cancer more and more each day!!!!

(or "Google" Ovarian cancer and find other sites)

"Symptoms of ovarian cancer are nonspecific and mimic those of many other more common conditions, including digestive and bladder disorders. A woman with ovarian cancer may be diagnosed with another condition before finally learning she has cancer.
Common misdiagnoses include irritable bowel syndrome, stress and depression. The key seems to be persistent or worsening signs and symptoms. With most digestive disorders, symptoms tend to come and go, or they occur in certain situations or after eating certain foods. With ovarian cancer, there's typically little fluctuation — symptoms are constant and gradually worsen.

Recent studies have shown that women with ovarian cancer are more likely than are other women to consistently experience the following symptoms:
Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
Urinary urgency
Pelvic discomfort or pain

Additional signs and symptoms that women with ovarian cancer may experience include:
Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
Unexplained changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
A persistent lack of energy
Low back pain
Changes in menstruation"

Breast cancer, on the other hand, is more common and is more easily found in it's early stages. Woman can check themselves for breast lumps, changes, and skin lesions and are encouraged to get annual mammograms. They will frequently know if breast cancer has been in their family.
The survival rate for breast cancer has lengthened substantially, not just because of public awareness and public testing, but with it's early diagnosis, treatment, the variety and probable disfigurement of the surgeries, and the increasing survival rate, more of the family, friends, and neighbors are likely to be aware of what the patient is or has been going through.
More of the public "knows or has known" someone with breast cancer.
They may not realize that they "know or have known" someone with ovarian cancer.

A professor I knew succumbed to breast cancer 2 months ago. She was very strongly opposed to what she regarded as the "commercialism" of breast cancer awareness. She objected to "all of Best Buy's employees wearing pink shirts for breast cancer", for instance, saying that it was for Best Buy, not for breast cancer.
By the same token, I believe this helps breast cancer survivors know that they are not alone.

And, last but not least: Cervical cancer, like breast cancer, also has the ability to be detected early - with PAP tests if the public gets them done early! In addition, researchers have discovered a direct link between the virus that causes venereal warts and many cervical cancers. Following that, they have come up with a vaccine that has been put out on the market in the past couple of years. So, once again, there is the need for public awareness and simple tests in addition to prevention being available!

As I understand it, the CA-125 test only provides relevant information if the cause of the results are already known although this is still controversial.

Thank you for bringing up the whole issue.
Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I absolutely agree. I had an ovarian cancer scare a year ago and was absolutely terrified when I did a little research on the long-term prognosis. Luckily, it turned out later to be benign, but it really brought this type of cancer to my attention. I know two other women right now with ovarian cancer that are my same age (early 30s). One friend is doing well as it was caught very early, but my other friend is dying while her three children sit by her bed. It's heartbreaking. I keep thinking this could have been me and I realize how lucky I am.
Much more attention should be given to this deadly cancer. Hooray to you for bringing this up in this forum.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Huntington on

We've become over 'breast cancered'...I agree and I think it makes us feel 'safe' from all the other cancers/conditions. More women die from heart disease than breast cancer, but we think of HD as a man's disease!!

In the interest of full disclosure, my mother-in-law died of breast cancer, my mother is a non-hogdkins lymphoma survivor and my husband is a testicular cancer survivor, and my uncle died at 39 of lung cancer, so I am an equal opportunity activist!!!

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answers from Nashville on

I totally agree with you. I lost my mom 5 1/2 years ago to Ovarian Cancer. She was only 45 years old and I was 8 wks pregnant with her 1st grandchild. When they found the cancer she was already in a stage 4 and looked very pregnant. By that time the cancer had already spread. My mom was a fighter and fought for 3 1/2 years. She was never sick until the very end. Praise God for that! She is an amzazing person and my inspiration. I really think that the word does need to get out more for this type of cancer. Like you mentioned usually when you find it, it is too late. I know they do a breast cancer walk you can check on to see about doing an ovarian cancer walk. If one person starts it then everyone else will follow. Good luck and God Bless you for trying to get the word out!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Edit: Thanks to Anna C for the great info. Maybe someone can elaborate on the C-125 test? I've heard so much conflicting info about it (too many false positives and negatives for it to be used as a screening test). We get so much conflicting info thrown at us about health issues (and I'm not even talking about western medicine vs. alternative, etc.) that it's difficult to keep up.

There was a recent article in Newsweek about the politics of cancer research that you may be interested in.
"We Fought Cancer...And Cancer Won."

I can understand why it makes you so furious, especially since we just had "Breast Cancer Awareness Month". For what it's worth, I've received a couple of email Forwards recently talking about Ovarian Cancer.

Do you have favorite websites to share that might help to educate women about Ovarian Cancer?

I hate that you've had to go through this, but I'm glad you're still here to help educate others. :-)

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answers from Louisville on

My sister was diagnosed of stage 4 ovarian cancer. She is now in Japan and we sent her a zeolite to drink. Zeolite is so well known for killing the cancer cells and protecting the healthy cells. When I went back to Japan to be with her for her surgery, the doctor showed me her ovaries and they were so shocked not to find any cancer cells on both her ovaries. My sister is a medical doctor herself and she told me that she saw her own ovaries during the ultrasound and knew right away that she had cancer. Now since her cancer cells disappeared in her ovaries, we are now hoping that she survives her cancer. They said that she has cancer cells in her omentum and she also has some ascitis fluid. Since she had been taking Zeolite, her cancer count went from 300 to 21. This is really good news. Since she retired as a doctor and her only daughter is pregnant and not working, she had been crocheting pouches and sending it here for me to sell. I have sold a lot of the pouches at work and I am still continously receiving orders. All the proceeds of her pouches go towards payments for her chemo. Are you totally clear of your cancer? Tell me more about it. I would love to hear your story.

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answers from Jackson on

I agree, my aunt was misdiagnosed for a year and when they finally found out it was ovarian cancer she was too far gone. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 and it spread to my bone at age 30. The Lord has answered my prayer and rid me of the cancer. My doctors will not say that I am healed only that there is no evidence of disease but I believe God has healed me. One thing I have learned is that research in any area of cancer can help many areas of cancer. I wish all doctors would get together somehow and share their knowledge to unlock all the secrets of cancer. I am so happy to hear that yours was caught in time. Knowledge is the key and when women become more aware of ovarian cancer they will want to learn more and people will start talking about it. You are helping that movement by making everyone aware on this site to the dangers of ovarian cancer.

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answers from Memphis on

thanks for sounding off S..

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answers from Hickory on

Thanks for reminding us. Congratulations on your own good fortune! May you have many more years of wonderful life!

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answers from Knoxville on

I have a friend at work who's sister is only 29 and diagnoised with ovarian cancer. She isn't working here anymore so I am not sure what happened. I have PCOS and at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. It scares me to death sometimes because it is ususally a death sentence because no one talks about it or knows anything about it including symptoms!!! I don't understand this either. I think possibly more money could be made from breast cancer awareness because it is more prevelant.

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answers from Nashville on

Yes, ovarian is deadlier and harder to detect but I think it is because there are MORE people with breast cancer.
I am sorry this happened to you and yes you are right. We need to get the word out more.
I am glad that they found it early and I hope it all gets completely squared away and you are well.
Best of luck to you and I will say a little prayer for you even though God doesn't seem to listen to me, but I will try.

1 mom found this helpful
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