For those who are not aware already, ovarian cancer is one of the most common and deadly gynaecological cancers and is one of the leading cancers among women. Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions surrounding this medical condition. One of the primary measures we need to take to control the widespread incidence of the disease is through awareness.
The Channel 46 collaborated with By Dr Sunny Jain, Sr Consultant at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital & HOD and Sr Consultant at Marengo QRG Hospital, to bust 10 common myths plaguing ovarian cancer in women.
Myth 1: Ovarian cancer is a rare medical condition.
Reality: Ovarian cancer is not rare, contrary to common belief. It is known to be the fifth most common cancer among women. According to data collected in 2020, there were 43,886 incidences of ovarian cancer among women. The number is believed to be 49,644 in 2025.
Myth 2: Only elderly women are affected by cancer of the ovaries.
Reality: Yes, ovarian cancer is often associated with menopausal women. It is true that 90% of cases occur among women over the age of 45 and 80% of women over 50 years. However, the fact remains that it is not restricted to elderly women. It can happen to women at any age.
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Myth 3: Ovarian cancer is a silent disease.
Reality: Some of the primary symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to the common symptoms of several other medical conditions. As a result, diagnosing it at the early stages is a challenge. It is not a silent medical condition that does not manifest itself, although they are vague. Some of the most common symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are abdominal bloating, stomach pain, change in bladder or bowel habits, among others. It is essential to recognise the symptoms and keep a close tab on them to treat the medical condition successfully from its early stages.
Myth 4: A pelvic test or pap smear can effectively diagnose ovarian cancer.
Reality: One of the most common misconceptions about this cancer is that a pelvic exam or a pap smear is sufficient to diagnose the presence of cancer in the ovaries. The reality is that both these diagnostic tests are ineffective in detecting this cancer. A pap smear is effective for diagnosing cervical cancer. A pelvic examination, ultrasound, or CT scan can detect the disease, although there is no guarantee to it.
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Myth 5: Ovarian cancer can happen only if you have a history of the disease in your family.
Reality: Ovarian cancer can be a hereditary condition, but it is not the sole reason why it can happen. Only about ⅕ of cases are hereditary. Although the family history of this condition raises the probability of one inheriting it through genetic mutation, there are several other risk factors at play. These include ageing, obesity, diabetes, endometriosis, and unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking.
Myth 6: Birth control pills can lead to ovarian cancer.
Reality: This myth cannot be further away from the truth. Birth control pills cannot cause ovarian cancer. On the contrary, hormonal contraceptives have a protective effect. Hormonal imbalance raises the risk of the disease and contraceptives control the exposure to hormones by ensuring proper ovulation. Research shows that oral contraceptives reduce ovarian cancer risk by 30 to 50%.
Myth 7: Ovarian cancer is always fatal.
Reality: Ovarian cancer cannot always be successfully treated, but that doesn’t mean that it always leads to death. In fact, the survival rate is high if it is diagnosed early and treated effectively. Research shows that the chances of long-term remission and 5-year survival are greater than 90% if detected stage 1. The importance of early diagnostics and awareness of the common symptoms and risk factors cannot be emphasised upon enough.
Myth 8: Surgery is the only way to treat ovarian cancer effectively.
Reality: Surgery is one of the treatment options for ovarian cancer, but it is not the only one available. The treatment methods for this medical condition are multifaceted, ranging from radiation therapy to chemotherapy, apart from surgery. Hysterectomy can remove the cancer from the roots in most cases, although not all. This surgery involves removing the uterus from the body, which does not stop the cancer from developing. The slight probability of the cancer spreading remains even if the ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed.
Myth 9: Ovarian cancer can only affect women who have never had children.
Reality: The incidence of ovarian cancer is indeed higher among women who have never had children. However, having children does not keep women safe from developing this cancer. This cancer can develop among women of all reproductive histories.
Myth 10: The presence of cyst always indicates ovarian cancer.
Reality: Ovarian cysts always raise concern, but they are not always cancerous because most cysts are benign and harmless. They disappear on their own. Persistent cysts should be closely monitored at regular intervals by a medical expert.
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