About Ovarian Cancer

Signs, Symptoms & Risk Factors

Signs & Symptoms


Historically ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer” because symptoms were not thought to develop until the cancer had spread. However, recent studies have shown this term is untrue and that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:


  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)


These symptoms are relatively common in women and are often associated with a number of different health problems, from irritable bowel syndrome to urinary tract infections.  Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include:


  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual irregularities


However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.

Risk Factors


Like any cancer, why one woman gets ovarian cancer and another does not remains a mystery. However, women are at risk if they have any of the following:


  • Inherited gene mutations.
  • Family history of ovarian cancer.
  • A previous diagnosis of the breast, colon, rectum or uterus.
  • Increasing age
  • Never having been pregnant


The overwhelming majority of women who get ovarian cancer have no known risk factors.


Facts & Take Action

If ovarian cancer is suspected, it is crucial to see a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in women’s cancers. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.


OVA1 is an FDA cleared blood test that can help a physician evaluate an ovarian mass for the risk of malignancy prior to a planned surgery. Women with a higher risk may benefit from being referred to gynecologic oncologist for surgery and following treatment. OVA1 is indicated for women over the age of 18, with an ovarian mass who have not been referred to a specialist. It is not intended to be a screening test or to determine whether a patient should proceed to surgery. For more information please visit www.ova-1.com


  • Ovarian Cancer is the fifth leading cause of death among women in the United States and is the most deadly of all gynecologic cancers.
  • Ovarian Cancer is not an uncommon disease occurring in 1 of every 71 women.
  • When ovarian cancer is detected early, before it has spread beyond the ovaries, more than 90% of women will survive longer than five years. Only 19% of women are diagnosed in the early stages.
  • Currently, 50% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer die from the disease within five years. When diagnosed in advanced stages, the chance of five- year survival is only 44%.
  • Ovarian cancer is often difficult to diagnose because symptoms may be subtle, are easily confused with other diseases and because there is no single reliable easy-to-administer screening tool.
  • A woman can get Ovarian Cancer even if her ovaries have been removed.

Take Action

  • Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist.
  • Experts recommend a pelvic/rectal exam, a transvaginal sonogram, and a CA 125 blood test. A Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer.
  • While most early ovarian tumors are difficult for even the most skilled doctor to feel during a pelvic exam, an exam may help identify other cancers or gynecologic conditions. Discuss the need for these exams with your doctor.

NLOCF Research Fund Account

On March 3, 2018, the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation presented a check for $100,000 to fund a Research Fund Account at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology.


These funds will be utilized for one $100,000 investigator to conduct ovarian cancer research. Project proposals will be reviewed by a committee headed by the Dr. Warner Huh. Updates on the funded project will be posted.


Over the past 12 years, the NLOCF has funded over $1,4000,000 in ovarian cancer research. Over the past 3 years, our funds have supported Dr. Rebecca Arend’s research pertaining to why women with ovarian cancer become resistant to chemotherapy, why they recur, and how the medical profession can prevent this from happening. Advances in surgery and chemotherapy have improved patient responses and increased their time in remission, but cure rates have not significantly changed in the last 20 years and the majority of patients eventually recur.


Funds over the past 3 years have also funded the NORMA LIVINGSTON OVARIAN CANCER FOUNDATION TELEMEDICINE GENETICS CLINIC. This innovative pilot program will help reduce the risk of women getting ovarian cancer by offering genetic testing and counseling services to women with a personal or family history of ovarian, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer. A key component of this service is expert genetic counseling from an experienced, trained genetic counselor, especially one with experience in hereditary cancers. Access to this type of service can sometimes be difficult due to travel, work, and personal constraints. Through the NLOCF Telemedicine Genetics Clinic more women will have access to this service. Theoretically, this clinic has the benefit of providing access to the entire State of Alabama, the Southeast region, and certain, under-served pockets in the United States.