September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
September 14, 2021

Ottawa Journal (September 14 – September 18, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that approximately 171,000 new cases of cancer (excluding about 75,100 non-melanoma skin cancers) and 75,300 deaths will occur in Canada, in 2009. Cancer takes many forms, but one particular form – ovarian cancer, is particularly illusive because its symptoms are often dismissed as normal female hormonal changes and therefore, it remains undiagnosed until it's too late. For this reason, it is important to increase our awareness of this form of cancer because early detection is the key to beating it.

Ovarian cancer begins in the cells of the ovary or ovaries. There are three main types of ovarian cancer. For each type, the cancer starts in a different type of cell found in the ovaries: i) Epithelial Cell Cancer begins in the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary; ii) Germ Cell Tumours start in the egg cells within the ovary and generally occur in younger women and can even develop in children; iii) Stromal Tumours start in the connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together.

In the early stages, this type of cancer often doesn't present any symptoms. However, when symptoms do appear, they are often vague and ambiguous. They are also very often mistaken for more common illnesses. In many cases, these symptoms can be caused by other less serious health problems, not cancer. Ovarian cancer in its early stages may present the following symptoms: abdominal discomfort, pressure, or pain; abdominal swelling; change in bowel habits; feeling full after a light meal; indigestion; gas; upset stomach; feeling that the bowel has not completely emptied; nausea; fatigue; pain in lower back or leg; and more frequent or urgent urination. Testing is required to make a diagnosis.

If a family doctor suspects ovarian cancer, they will arrange special tests. The tests may also indicate the stage or grade of the cancer. There are several tests that are used to detect this form of cancer including imaging studies, blood tests, and biopsies.

Surgery is often the most common treatment for ovarian cancer, once it has been diagnosed. A decision for surgery is made depending on the tumour's location, stage, and grade. During the operation, the tumour is completely or partly removed. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also commonly used to treat the disease.

Although ovarian cancer is the most serious of all gynecological cancers, early detection and treatment of this disease is key, as it has a 90 per cent survival rate. This is why it is crucial for women to talk to their family doctors when they identify any of the symptoms.

You can learn more about ovarian cancer by visiting Ovarian Cancer Canada's website at: or the Canadian Cancer Society's website at There are also many ways you can become involved in the fight against this form of cancer, which include: participating in events organized throughout Ontario this month (visit for a complete listing), making a donation, or volunteering.

By raising awareness during the month of September and throughout the whole year, we can each support the many courageous women who are affected by this disease in their fight to overcome it and to finally find a cure.