Chances are, you've heard the sad news that Evelyn Lauder passed away this weekend. Lauder was known for many roles, including her role as a vice-president at the cosmetics corporation (founded by her mother-in-law, Estée Lauder), but she's probably most well-known for her fight to end breast cancer by raising awareness and campaigning for research. She was also a co-founder of the Pink Ribbon Campaign, and in 1993, she founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Although she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, she died this weekend of ovarian cancer.
It's well-established that women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, but Lauder actually died of non-genetic ovarian cancer. In light of this news, we thought we'd take a look at some of the most important things you need to know about non-genetic ovarian cancer.
1. Ovarian cancer is the 5th most deadly cancer. While it is the 9th most common overall, ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly with an estimated 15,460 deaths in 2011.
2. Your risk increases as you age. Scientists aren't exactly sure why, but your risk increases as you age. Most ovarian cancers occur in women 65 and over.
3. The symptoms can be easily missed. "Symptoms of non-genetic ovarian cancer can be non-specific, and easily confused with other diseases, which is why the treatment can be delayed," Amy Hendel, a registered physician assistant and author of the Four Habits of Healthy Families says. Common symptoms include belly pain, abdominal pressure and bloating, loss of appetite, lower-back pain, changes in your bowel movements, and pelvic pain.
4. Your risk may change depending on whether you have children. "Giving birth before the age of 30 may act as a protective measure," Hendel says. "Conversely, not having children is associated with risk." In addition, research suggests that your reproductive history— how early you started menstruating, whether or not you've ever taken oral contraceptives, and when you experience menopause can all affect your risk of developing non-genetic ovarian cancer.
5. The survival rate is high, when caught early. There are four stages of ovarian cancer. The 5-year survival rate is currently 46 percent, though according to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the survival rate has only increased by 8 percent in the past 30 years.