Non-profit: 'We need to know more about what causes of ovarian cancer'

Published: Feb. 26, 2016 at 3:27 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2016 at 3:46 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A Missouri jury awarded $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who they said died from ovarian cancer caused by Johnson & Johnson talcum powder.

"What this tells me is that we need to know more about what causes ovarian cancer," said Jenny McInerney, Executive Director of Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

McInerney says more than 22,000 women are diagnosed in the United States every year with ovarian cancer.

"It's typically known as the 'silent killer' because so many of the signs and symptoms are overlooked or they're misdiagnosed," said McInerney.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include abdominal bloating or swelling, quickly feeling full when eating, weight loss, discomfort in the pelvis area, changes in bowel habits, such as constipation, and a frequent need to urinate.

"A lot of those symptoms simply get overlooked or they are misdiagnosed as IBS or other types of digestive problems," said McInerney.

The Mayo Clinic says there are certain risk factors for ovarian cancer. Women who have never been pregnant, are taking fertility treatments, smoking, use an intrauterine device, or have polycystic ovary syndrome, may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

The disease is seen most often in women ages 50 to 60, though it can occur at any age. The Mayo Clinic also says women who use estrogen hormone replacement therapy long-term and in large doses may have an increased risk.

And women who started menstruating before age 12, underwent menopause after age 52, or both, may have a higher risk for ovarian cancer.

It remains unclear what causes ovarian cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The American Cancer Society says studies of whether talcum powder causes ovarian cancer show mixed results, with its website stating, "some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase."

McInerney says this underscores the importance of ovarian cancer research and early detection.

"Most women who I've spoken to who are survivors or who have gone through ovarian cancer, they always say that they just knew something wasn't right," said McInerney. "So it is really important to listen to your instincts and listen to your body and talk those things over with your doctor."

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