Some women never have symptoms. Others feel vaguely out of sorts, maybe a little bloated or constipated.

Julie L. was one of the lucky ones.

At 69, she had gone through menopause years ago. But for several months, she had been spotting. Two ultrasounds revealed nothing but a slightly enlarged ovary; she was diagnosed with vaginal dryness, given some cream and sent on her way. Yet the bleeding continued.

Unconvinced, Julie went to a different doctor who discovered that her “slightly enlarged ovary” was ovarian cancer.

This year, one out of 60 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Among U.S. women, it’s the eighth most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer death. In its early stages, ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic. It isn’t until the disease progresses that many women experience signs that something isn’t quite right.

Ovarian cancer is found in the tissues of the ovary. These tumors are more often benign (not cancerous), but some are malignant (cancerous). Left unchecked, ovarian cancer can spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.

If you are a woman over 60 with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer you are at high risk.  Mutations of the BRCA1 or the BRCA2 genes also increase a woman's odds for developing ovarian cancer.

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