Should Your Ovarian Cancer Ever Have Happened?
Ovarian cancer is considered a rare form of cancer. Only 20,000 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, which sounds like a lot but pales in comparison to the 246,660 new cases of breast cancer expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2016. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women, followed by lung cancer, of which 106,470 new cases in women were expected to be diagnosed in 2016.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you may be surprised to learn that there is evidence that it may have been caused by using talcum powder. Several studies over four decades indicate an increased risk of ovarian cancer among women who used talcum powder in their genital region.
However, the link between talc, the elemental ingredient in talcum powder, and ovarian cancer has only recently been widely publicized. This has come as multiple lawsuits have sought compensation from baby powder maker Johnson & Johnson for the costs, losses, pain and suffering ovarian cancer has caused thousands of women who have used talcum powder for years with no idea of the risk involved.
Some women are predestined to develop ovarian cancer. But your cancer may have been caused by a consumer product that you had every reason to think of as safe. This should not have happened. Stern Law PLLC can help if your or your loved one’s use of talcum powder led to a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
What You Should Know About Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is an adverse mutation of cells in the tissue of the ovaries, which typically results in the development of tumors as cancerous cells multiply. Like all cancers, ovarian cancer is named for the body part in which it originates, but if left undiagnosed and untreated it will spread beyond the ovaries.
Treatment works best if it is begun before ovarian cancer has spread beyond the ovaries. The ovaries are located in the pelvis on each side of the uterus. They produce female hormones and eggs.
Ovarian cancer accounts for only about 3 percent of all cancers in women, but it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, including cervical cancer, fallopian tube cancer, cancer of the uterus, vulvar cancer, and vaginal cancer.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
One problem with ovarian cancer is that its symptoms are usually not recognized until the cancer has spread beyond the ovary or ovaries.
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary urgency (suddenly feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often).
You should talk to your doctor about any of these symptoms, but you should also know that they can be caused by non-cancerous diseases or by cancers of other pelvic organs. In cases of ovarian cancer, these symptoms occur more often, are likely to be more severe, and represent a more marked change for what’s normal for you.
The American Cancer Society says specifically that if a woman has these symptoms more than 12 times a month, she should see a doctor, preferably a gynecologist.
Additional symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- Pain in the back, pelvis or abdominal area
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual changes or other vaginal bleeding or discharge that is not normal for you
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal swelling with weight loss.
Again, these symptoms can also be caused by several factors that are not related to ovarian cancer.
A Doctor’s Exam for Ovarian Cancer
When you see a doctor about symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer, she or he will review your history and conduct an examination. You may also be referred for tests, such as:
- Imaging tests (ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan, etc.).
- Blood tests for factors that could indicate cancer. This may include the CA 125 test, whichmeasures the amount of the protein CA 125 (cancer antigen 125) in your blood.
- Laparoscopy, an invasive procedure for looking at the ovaries.
- Biopsy, which is taking a sample of tissue and/or ascites (fluid built up inside the abdomen) and examining them for cancerous cells.
As you doctor reviews or asks about your medical history, some factors will count in your favor, making you less likely to develop ovarian cancer, while others increase your risk of ovarian cancer.
You are less likely to have ovarian cancer if you have:
- Used birth control pills, particularly for more than five years
- Given birth
- Breastfed a baby for a year or more
- Had a tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied)
- Had a hysterectomy (surgery in which the uterus and sometimes the cervix is removed)
- Had both ovaries removed.
You may be more likely to develop ovarian cancer if you:
- Are middle-aged or older
- Are obese (a body mass index of 30 or more)
- Have close family members (mother, sister, aunt and/or grandmother) who have had ovarian cancer
- Have a genetic mutation (abnormality) called BRCA1 or BRCA2, or one associated with Lynch syndrome
- Have had breast, colorectal (colon), cervical cancer or melanoma (skin cancer)
- Have endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body)
- Have an Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish heritage
- Have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant
- Have used thefertility drug clomiphene citrate (Clomid) for longer than one year
- Have taken estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for 10 or more years
- Have taken Danazol, a drug that increases androgen levels, or have taken androgen.
Talcum Powder Use a Potential Cause of Ovarian Cancer
When considering a potential diagnosis of ovarian cancer, your doctor may or may not ask about your use of talcum powder products. Not everyone knows about the multiple studies linking talcum powder to an increased risk for ovarian cancer. Some who do know have decided that the science is so far inconclusive.
However, clinical studies since the 1970s have found increased risk of ovarian cancer among women who use talcum powder products in their genital areas. The primary element used to make talcum powder is talc, a silicate mineral that when mined from the earth is often found alongside asbestos, a known carcinogen, and which has a similar chemical and crystalline structure as asbestos.
Clinical studies have found traces of talc in ovarian cancer tumors.
Many women use talcum powder in body powder or baby powder to absorb moisture and cut down on friction. Well-known products include Johnson’s Baby Powder, Shower to Shower body powder and Baby Magic Baby Powder.
Body powder made of cornstarch does not present the health risk that talcum powder does. You can consult the ingredients label of any product you use to see whether it contains talc or talcum powder.
If you consult a doctor or gynecologist about symptoms that may be related to ovarian cancer, you should tell your doctor if you:
- Use talcum powder products (body powder or baby powder) in panties, in sanitary napkins or on condoms, and
- You have regularly used talcum powder products as described for five years or more.
Treating and Surviving Ovarian Cancer
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer among women in the United States and the fifth leading cause of cancer death, after lung and bronchus, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers.
For all types of ovarian cancer, the five-year relative survival rate is 45 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
The five-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed.
If ovarian cancer is treated before it has spread beyond the ovary(ies), the five-year relative survival rate is 92 percent. However, only 15 percent of all ovarian cancers are found at this early stage.
How ovarian cancer is treated depends on the nature of the cancer and how far it has spread. Ovarian cancers have different prognoses at different stages and are treated differently. Initial surgery for ovarian cancer is known as “staging surgery.” It includes obtaining samples of tissue from different parts of the pelvis and abdomen for examining and determining how advanced the cancer is.
After your staging surgery, ask about the stage of your cancer to help you make informed decisions about your treatment.
The primary stages of ovarian cancer are:
- Stage I: Cancer found only within the ovary (or ovaries) or fallopian tube(s).
- Stage II: Cancer in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and in other organ(s) within the pelvis, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, bladder, the sigmoid colon, or the rectum.
- Stage III: Cancer in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes, and it has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and/or to lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen (retroperitoneal lymph nodes).
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to the inside of the spleen, liver, lungs, or other organs located outside the peritoneal cavity, the area enclosed by the peritoneum, a membrane that lines the inner abdomen and some of the pelvis and covers most of its organs.
This is an abbreviate list of the stages of ovarian cancer based on the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) staging technique. Within each are more detailed designations that more specifically describe the extent of the disease, which your doctors can explain. The American Joint Committee on Cancer uses a staging system that is slightly different.
Depending on the kind of ovarian cancer and how far it has spread treatment may require surgery, chemotherapy or radiation:
- Surgery: Doctors remove cancerous tissue, potentially including one or both ovaries.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs shrink or kill the cancer. Chemo may be administered as pills or intravenously (into your veins), or sometimes both.
- Radiation: Use of high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer. Of the three, radiation is least often used.
Your doctor should explain treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer, and the risks and benefits of each treatment, as well as their side effects.
Ask Stern Law About your Ovarian Cancer and a Talc Connection
If you or a loved one of yours has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after a history of using talcum powder products, Stern Law, PLLC, would like to assist you. We are currently accepting and pursuing legal claims for women or the families of women with ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder use. You should contact us about a free, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our trusted talcum powder injury lawyers.
Ken Stern has dedicated his legal career to helping victims of other people’s negligence, including those harmed by faulty and dangerous consumer products. Our firm’s primary goal is to provide answers, guidance and support to those dealing with debilitating injuries and illnesses. When clients deserve compensation for their injuries and losses we fight hard to see to it that justice is served.
Stern Law seeks justice for the unjustly injured. Contact us today to preserve and protect your legal rights.