Senator Huntley: Ovarian Cancer Symptoms Often Difficult To Pinpoint

Shirley L. Huntley

September 26, 2008

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month


            September 25, 2008 --  Hoping to bring better awareness to new breakthroughs associated with detecting ovarian cancer, State Senator Shirley L. Huntley (D-Queens) today encouraged New Yorkers to learn more about the symptoms of its early disease. Ovarian cancer used to be called the ‘silent killer’ because it rarely revealed symptoms in its earliest, most treatable stages.

             “Ovarian cancer has been hard to detect early because it presents with vague symptoms that can mimic other kinds of problems, such as digestive disorders,” Senator Huntley said. “But recently a symptoms checklist, combined with a blood test, has been shown to catch more than four out of five ovarian cancers in the earliest, most curable stages.” 

            Until there is an accurate screening test for ovarian cancer, awareness of its subtle symptoms is an important key to earlier detection, she added.  Research suggests that a cluster of symptoms, often mistaken for gastrointestinal problems, may indicate ovarian cancer: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency or frequency.

            “Many women experience these symptoms from time to time,” the Queens lawmaker said. “But if any of them persist nearly every day for several weeks, I urge you to get them checked out. Early detection of ovarian cancer can save lives.”  

            The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year, with 15,000 more women dying from it. Though hardly known, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women, affecting one out of every 58 women.

            Doctors cannot always explain why one woman gets ovarian cancer and another does not. However, women with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop the disease, though many women with risk factors will not.

            According to the National Cancer Institute, risk factors for ovarian cancer include: a family history of ovarian cancer (mother, daughter or sister); being over the age of 55; a personal history of having had cancer of the breast, uterus, colon or rectum; and never having been pregnant. Some studies suggest that women who take the hormone estrogen (without progesterone) for 10 years or more may have increased risk as well.             

            For more information on ovarian cancer, visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition at or call the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345.  

            “The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s slogan is ‘Ovarian Cancer… It whispers, so listen,’” Senator Huntley said. “I agree; listen and if need be, take action.”