Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Physician Offers Five Facts Women Need to Know

Sep 14, 2018

Queens, NY

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, more than 250,000 women across the globe are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and the cancer causes 140,000 deaths annually. Unfortunately, too often, ovarian cancer is diagnosed too late, as the symptoms are similar to those experienced by a woman experiencing her period or less serious medical conditions.

Dr. David Fishman, cancer center director, vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology, and director of gynecologic oncology for NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, believes there needs to be a paradigm shift in how we approach the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer. 

“Ovarian cancer takes the lives of far too many women, because of misdiagnosis, and a lack of awareness that all women are at risk of developing ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Fishman. “Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed too late, it’s important for women to know their risk at contracting this deadly disease, and its earliest warning signs.”

Dr. Fishman offers the following facts to help raise awareness about ovarian cancer, its risk and symptoms.

1. Know the symptoms. The early symptoms don’t seem severe and are easy to ignore: bloating, abdominal pain, feeling full quickly and frequent urination. Other symptoms include indigestion, nausea, weight gain, shortness of breath and back pain.

If you experience these symptoms for more than seven days consult a physician and if appropriate, ask if there any abnormalities with your ovaries. 

2. Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer. Many patients have a tendency to believe that a clean pap test means that they are clear of ovarian cancer. This is not the case. A pap smear diagnoses cervical disease and is not a tool to diagnose ovarian cancer.

3. Know the risk factors. Every woman is at risk for ovarian cancer, and one in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer. One of the best ways to evaluate your risk is based on your personal and family history. Women with a personal history of breast cancer are at increased risk for developing ovarian cancer. There are many other cancers associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, which should be discussed with your physician.

Presently, at least 100 inheritable, identified genes are associated with an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer.  To best determine if you are at risk for having a gene mutation associated with an increased risk for developing cancer, you should be formally evaluated by a board certified genetic counselor. 

Other factors increasing a woman’s risk for developing ovarian cancer include infertility, early menstrual cycles, obesity and age over 70 years. 

4. Certain behaviors reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Studies have shown that a healthy, low-fat diet, giving birth, the use of birth control, tubal ligation and preventative surgery can all reduce the chances of a woman -- including at-risk women -- from contracting ovarian cancer. Prevention of ovarian cancer can be achieved by prophylactically removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

5. Ovarian cancer is very treatable when detected early. If ovarian cancer is discovered confined to the ovary (Stage I), depending on the type of ovarian cancer, patients have on average a 90 percent, five-year survival rate. For certain types of ovarian cancer, the survival rate is a high as 98 percent. That’s why it’s critical to consult with physicians at the first sign of symptoms. 

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens’ Cancer Center Risk Assessment and Cancer Prevention Program provides comprehensive, high-quality and innovative care to patients whose personal or family history or genetic makeup increases their risk of developing cancer. Board-certified genetic counselors screen patients for genetic mutations; those found at risk for or who ultimately develop cancer are referred to the appropriate oncology specialist for treatment. Board certified gynecologic oncologists provide care for women at risk as well as those with gynecologic cancers. Advanced ultrasound technology is used to evaluate patients for ovarian and uterine abnormalities. The center employs a multidisciplinary approach, integrating all aspects of healthcare from spiritual to nutrition to surgical intervention to ensure that all aspects of a patient’s health and wellbeing are addressed.  For more information, contact the Cancer Center at 718-670-1731.


NewYork-Presbyterian Queens

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, located in Flushing, New York, is a community teaching hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medicine, serving Queens and metro New York residents. The 535-bed tertiary care facility provides services in 14 clinical departments and numerous subspecialties.  Annually, 15,000 surgeries and 4,000 infant deliveries are performed at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. With its network of affiliated primary and multispecialty care physician practices and community-based health centers, the hospital provides approximately 162,000 ambulatory care visits and 124,000 emergency service visits annually. For more information, visit nyp.org/queens

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Media Contact:

Julie Robinson 212-843-9341