Younger age no excuse to not know ovarian cancer signs

  • World Ovarian Cancer Day coincides with Mother’s Day on May 8.
  • Ovarian cancer patients coordinate a global campaign to encourage earlier diagnosis in younger women.
  • New online tool to check the 10 most common symptoms.
  • A billboard in New York’s Times Square will feature real women with ovarian cancer, alongside the excuses they told themselves before they were diagnosed.
  • Ovarian cancer is an under-researched disease with limited treatment options and no cure.

Track symptoms now

Ovarian cancer patients in the United States and abroad have come together for a global campaign to raise awareness of the disease in younger women.

“This year, World Ovarian Cancer Day falls on the same day as Mother's Day,” said STAAR Ovarian Cancer Foundation Board Chair Nicole Andrews. “Because there is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer and for most women no cure, this disease robs some women of the chance to become mothers, and for others it limits the time they have as mothers.”

STAAR OC is the only nonprofit in the United States dedicated to funding research into a rare form of ovarian cancer, low-grade serous carcinoma. While the average age of all ovarian cancer diagnoses is 63, the average age of a person diagnosed with low-grade serous ovarian cancer is mid-40s. The average survival is 10 years.

The global campaign launches on May 8 — World Ovarian Cancer Day — and features women with low-grade serous ovarian cancer alongside the symptoms they excused before they were diagnosed. Through the global research charity Cure Our Ovarian Cancer, billboard space has been donated for the campaign across the world, including North America’s largest billboard located in New York’s Times Square, the United Kingdom, Vancouver, B.C., and New Zealand.

“Ovarian cancer is the 11th most common cancer in American women,” said Dr. David Gershenson, a leading researcher of ovarian cancer at MD Anderson at the University of Texas. “This year, almost 20,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, mortality rates for this cancer have declined only slightly in the past four decades. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, with almost 13,000 women dying of ovarian cancer this year.”

Because there is no effective screening strategy, Gershenson said it is important for women to learn what the common symptoms are for ovarian cancer. These include persistent abdominal or pelvic pain, bloating, feeling full quickly, change in bowel habits, painful intercourse and frequent urination lasting two or more weeks. Anyone who experiences these symptoms for more than two weeks is urged to speak to their doctor.

“It is important that we raise awareness about both what ovarian cancer is and how it can present, so that women know the signs of this disease,” said Dr. Rachel N. Grisham, section head of Ovarian Cancer for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and the Director of Gynecologic Medical Oncology at MSK Westchester. “It is equally important that women be aware of their family history and empowered to seek out genetic counseling, as early intervention can help to prevent the development of certain types of inherited cancers before they start.”

Research has found that younger women are particularly at risk of delayed diagnosis. Many women mistakenly believe that regular pelvic exams and Pap smears will detect ovarian cancer, and often ovarian cancer is not considered when doctors examine younger women with symptoms because of their age. Anyone born with ovaries is at risk for ovarian cancer.

To help women become familiar with the symptoms, a new online symptom checker developed by Odicci can be found at It identifies the 10 most common symptoms of ovarian cancer, and aims to help people understand within 60 seconds whether they need to speak to a medical professional.

All the creative and space for the campaign was donated, with support from the creative digital agency Topham Guerin and Verastem Oncology.

Press contact: Nicole Andrews, STAAR OC Board Chair

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