ovarian cancer

Ovarian Cancer in Canada – Building Awareness

There are many forms of cancers – some specific to men and others to women. September brings awareness to one form of cancer specific to women – ovarian cancer.

By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc. P.H.E.C. 

Approximately 2,700 women in Canada are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, making it the 5th most common and fatal cancers for women.1,2

Ovaries are the reproductive organs in a woman’s body that function to produce egg(s) for fertilization and female hormones.3 If there are abnormal cells in the ovaries that begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner this can lead to ovarian cancer.3

Ovarian Cancer Risk & Detection

There is a wide range of risk factors for ovarian cancer which include: specific genetic mutations (BRCA1 & BRCA2), family history of cancer, not having children or breastfeeding, and increasing age.4,5,6 Although there is no direct screening test for ovarian cancer, some experts recommend blood tests to identify cancer-associated genes. 4,6 Most importantly, being aware of how your body feels is crucial to identify changes in your health.6

The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:7

  • bloating 

  • change in eating patterns

  • abdominal pain

  • urinating frequently

These are very general and do not necessarily mean you have ovarian cancer.7 However, it’s a good idea to speak with your health care practitioner if you have never experienced these symptoms, if they happen often (more than 12 times/month) and/or if they last a long time (more than 3 weeks).7

Cancer Prevention: Focus on Your Health 

Although the risk factors for different cancers vary; there are some general nutrition and physical activity tips that can help you stay your healthiest.

Eating Well 

Eating a balanced diet from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide can help prevent cancer.8

  • Fruits & Vegetables – Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, as these contain antioxidants and nutrients that protect cells from damage and may lower your risk of cancer.8,9

  • Protein – Focus on getting your protein from lean meats, like chicken and fish. Avoid eating large amounts of red meat.10,11

  • Carbohydrates – Choose healthy carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains) that contain fibre and other essential nutrients your body needs. Try to avoid heavily processed foods that provide a lot of sugar, fat, calories and minimal nutrients.8,10,12

  • Fats – Monitor how much fat you eat. Enjoy healthy fats in moderation from natural foods such as avocados, fish, nuts as opposed to processed and deep fried foods.8,10,11

Add a variety of colourful veggies to your meals to pack an antioxidant punch! The below chicken recipes are loaded with nutrients and contain the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C:

Active Living 

Besides making you feel great, adding physical activity to your day can help you maintain a healthy body weight to reduce your risk of cancer.13

The Canadian Cancer Society encourages at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day13 so make those minutes fun! Go for a walk or a bike ride with your friends, play a sport or set a fitness goal for yourself to achieve – you’ll find physical activity becomes something you crave!  

Cancer Awareness

Building awareness about various cancers that may affect you or your family members is vital to prevention. Speak to your doctor openly about your family history of any diseases and/or health concerns you may have – the sooner the diagnosis the better chances of a positive outcome.6 


  1. Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Ovarian Cancer Statistics. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/ovarian/statistics/?region=on

  2. Ovarian Cancer. (2014). About Ovarian Cancer. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.ovariancanada.org/about-ovarian-cancer

  3. Ovarian Cancer. (2014). Disease Basics. Retrieved August 24, 2014, www.ovariancanada.org/about-ovarian-cancer/disease-basics?lang=en-ca

  4. Foundation for Women’s Cancers. (2013). Ovarian Cancer Risk Statement BRCA1 and BRCA2. Retrieved August 24, 2014, www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/risk-awareness/ovarian-cancer-risk-consensus-statement/

  5. Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. (2014). Risk Factors. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.ovariancancer.org/about/risk-factors/

  6. Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Finding ovarian cancer early. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/ovarian/finding-cancer-early/?region=on

  7. Ovarian Cancer Canada. (2014). Signs & Symptoms. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.ovariancanada.org/about-ovarian-cancer/detection/signs-symptoms?lang=en-ca

  8. Dietitians of Canada. (2013). Nutrition, Healthy Eating and Cancer. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Cancer/Nutrition,-Healthy-Eating-and-Cancer.aspx

  9. Genkinger, J.M., Platz, E.A., Hoffman, S.C., Comstock, G.W., & Helzlsouer, K.J. (2004). Fruit, Vegetable, and Antioxidant Intake and All-Cause Cancer, and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality in a Community-dwelling Population in Washington County, Maryland. American Journal of Epidemiology, 160(2), 1223-1233. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/12/1223.full.pdf+html

  10. Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Eating well. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/live-well/nutrition-and-fitness/eating-well/?region=on

  11. Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Fat. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/live-well/nutrition-and-fitness/eating-well/fat/?region=on

  12. Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Fibre. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/live-well/nutrition-and-fitness/eating-well/fibre/?region=on

  13. Canadian Cancer Society. (2014). Physical activity. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/live-well/nutrition-and-fitness/physical-activity/?region=on#ixzz36RAddlNX

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