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Noteworthy Numbers: Ovarian Cancer

TOP - November 2019, Vol 12, No 4 - Noteworthy Numbers

Ovarian cancer is a very difficult disease to diagnose and is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy, being the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States.1,2 A woman’s risk for developing ovarian cancer in her lifetime is approximately 1 in 78, and her lifetime risk for dying of the disease is approximately 1 in 108.2 The disease was previously thought to begin in the ovaries, but recent research suggests that many ovarian cancers may actually start in the distal end of the fallopian tubes.2 The following provides key statistics and other helpful information regarding ovarian cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,530 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019, and approximately 13,980 women will die of the disease in the same year.2

Patients with ovarian cancer have nonspecific symptoms and because of a lack of detection tests, only approximately 20% of all cases are found early in stage I or stage II.1

Approximately 85% to 90% of malignant ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas, which include serous carcinomas (52%), clear-cell carcinoma (6%), mucinous carcinoma (6%), and endometrioid carcinoma (10%).2 Germ-cell malignancies, which are rare, typically occur in women aged 10 to 29 years.3

Approximately 5% to 10% of ovarian cancers are part of family cancer syndromes resulting from mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2; PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome; hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer; Peutz-Jeghers syndrome; and MUTYH-associated polyposis.2

The overall 5-year survival rate for patients with ovarian cancer is approximately 47.6%, although this rate increases to 92.4% for patients with localized disease.4 The age range associated with the highest percentage of death is between 65 and 74 years.4

Oral contraceptives decrease the risk for developing ovarian cancer for average-risk women and BRCA mutation carriers. Women who use oral contraceptives for >5 years have an approximately 50% lower risk for developing ovarian cancer compared with women who never used oral contraceptives.2

The past decade has ushered in a greater understanding of the hereditary component of ovarian cancer, which has helped to personalize prevention and early detection efforts, and increase the availability of new, more effective treatments.

  1. National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. What is ovarian cancer? Accessed September 19, 2019.
  2. American Cancer Society. Ovarian cancer. April 11, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2019.
  3. Ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancer - introduction. Accessed September 30, 2019.
  4. National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: ovarian cancer. Accessed September 30, 2019.
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Last modified: July 22, 2021