The Silent Killer: Ovarian Cancer

Updated: Jul 25

Most cases are discovered at later stages due to its difficult detection, which is why ovarian cancer is often termed ‘The Silent Killer’

Author: Dina Babiker

Cancer has become one of the deadliest diseases of our time, and in Canada alone, it is responsible for the death of 30% of the population [1]. Cancer can take on many forms and spread throughout the body by hijacking the circulatory and lymphatic systems [2]. One of the deadliest forms of gynecological cancers and interest of this article is called ovarian cancer [3].

The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system that produce the eggs used in reproduction [1]. They also release important hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which are considered primary female hormones [1]. The Canadian Cancer Society estimated that 3100 Canadian women would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020, of which 1950 are estimated to die from the disease [4]. It is also the 5th most prevalent cancer in women and it has 3 main common forms: epithelial, germ and stromal cell ovarian cancer [4]. The most frequent form is the epithelial variant, which consists of cells that cover the ovaries, and it is the most invasive [5].

Ovarian cancer happens when cells in the ovaries start to divide uncontrollably and can either form a localized tumor or become metastatic and spread throughout the body [6,7]. Unlike other forms of cancer (e.g. breast cancer) that present physical symptoms, ovarian cancer can be very hard to diagnose because it does not necessarily have specific associated symptoms [7]. It is common for women to develop cysts on their ovaries in their lifetimes, however, these cysts may or may not actually develop into ovarian cancer [6]. Thus, oftentimes symptoms are attributed to other benign conditions, which can lead to delay in treatment [7]. Additionally, screening for ovarian cancer is very hard as getting definitive diagnosis requires surgical procedures [7]. Although there are pelvic exams that can be used to ensure healthy reproductive organs, it is often hard to feel ovarian tumors [7]. There are also other tests, like blood tests to test for a tumor marker known as CA125; but unfortunately, there are many other conditions that can cause this marker, this makes it a very non-specific test [7]. These were some of the reasons as to why only 15% of ovarian cancer is detected in an early stage [8]. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there is a 90%-95% chance of 5 year survival if ovarian cancer is detected early [9]. Unfortunately, most cases are discovered at later stages due to its difficult detection, which is why ovarian cancer is often termed ‘The Silent Killer’ [10].


Kaz Shuji, Rhea Verma


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  10. Galindo Y [Internet]. San Diego (CA): UC San Diego Health; 2020c. Unmasking a silent killer: Ovarian cancer; 2017 Sep 1 [cited 2020 Nov 15]. Available:,woman’s%20body%20as%20she%20ages

#Cancer #CancerResearch #ovariancancer #women039shealth

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