The signs of ovarian cancer can speak softly. But learning about your risks of developing ovarian cancer – and listening to your body when something doesn’t feel right – can help you feel more empowered in taking proactive steps for your health.

In observance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (OCAM), we’re sharing information about ovarian cancer, and how one woman took control of her journey with hope and action.

Ovarian Cancer Misconceptions

While many women may think they understand screening for gynecological cancers, a new nationwide survey from Myriad Genetics shows women have misconceptions about this important topic.

The Myriad Genetics Cancer Risk survey results show that nearly three out of four women (71%) falsely believe annual pap smears include testing for ovarian cancer. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the “only gynecologic cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer.”

This means that many women may feel a false sense of protection when they go for their regular pap smear.

“Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer for women due to the lack of screening techniques available and clinically non-specific symptoms,” said Ifeyinwa Stitt, MD, OB/GYN and medical director, Luminis Health in Annapolis, MD.

“If women don’t schedule annual visits because they incorrectly believe that having a normal pap equates to a low chance of ovarian cancer, then that eliminates the opportunity for providers to screen for early symptoms. Knowledge of predisposing factors and surveillance is imperative to early detection which is key to ovarian cancer survival.”

Seeing an OB/GYN provider annually allows patients to share how they are feeling and for the OB/GYN to conduct a pelvic exam. According to the American Cancer Society website, “Your doctor will likely do a pelvic exam to check for an enlarged ovary or signs of fluid in the abdomen (which is called ascites). If there is reason to suspect you might have ovarian cancer based on your symptoms and/or physical exam, your doctor will order some tests to check further.”

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

There are certain factors, including those related to your genetics, that may increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer.

For example, you might have a higher risk if you have close family members who have had ovarian cancer, such as your biological parent, grandparent, sibling, or parent’s siblings on either side of the family, according to the CDC website – Or, if you have “a genetic mutation (change) that raises your risk, including BRCA1 or BRCA2, or one associated with Lynch syndrome.”

According to the CDC website, other risk factors may include if you:

  • Are middle-aged or older.
  • Have had breast, uterine, or colorectal (colon) cancer.
  • Have an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background.
  • Have endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body).
  • Have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant.

To understand your risk factors, visit

Finding Hope Through Information

Katya Lezin is a mom of three from North Carolina who first noticed something was wrong when she felt rectal pain she could no longer ignore. A visit to her OB/GYN for an ultrasound turned into the start of her ovarian cancer journey.

“I got that call that we all kind of dread, that began with the words ‘I don’t know how to tell you this…’ And that call served as the demarcation between life as she knew it and everything that followed,” she said.

Katya is BRCA1 positive and a two-time ovarian cancer survivor. When she learned that she may have passed down her mutation to her children, she encouraged them to get hereditary cancer testing. Two of her three children now know they share the same BRCA1 mutation as Katya.

“In the last 10 years, I’ve had 10 major surgeries. I’ve had a dozen overnight hospitalizations. The removal of multiple body parts. Really trying times emotionally and physically,” said Katya. “And it is such a gift to me that I feel like I took one for the team. My kids get to know what their odds are, and they get to do something about it.”

Her daughters say learning about their genetic information is indeed a positive part of their story because it has allowed them to reclaim control of their journey. They can talk with their doctors to learn when and how to take steps to decrease their risk of developing ovarian cancer themselves.

“I got tested junior year of college and got the call that I was positive. When I got that call there was no panic, there was no crisis. I don’t think there’s any downside to getting tested. For me knowing that I’m BRCA positive has only made me more prepared for the future,” said Katya’s daughter, Hannah.

Take Proactive Steps for Your Health

While almost half (47%) of the women in the Myriad Genetics Cancer Risk survey believe they are being proactive when it comes to ovarian health, 38% say they visited an OB/GYN in the past year and only 13% say they have taken a genetic test to assess risk for cancer.

“Our latest survey results underscore the dire need to break down any confusion about ovarian cancer, including symptoms and screening, to help women better understand their cancer risk and how to take appropriate preventative measures,” said Melissa Gonzales, president of women’s health, Myriad Genetics.

“Listening to your body, having open conversations with your doctor and knowing your family history are essential in this quest. For women with elevated risk factors, genetic testing can be a helpful tool that provides a cancer risk assessment personalized to them.”

For more information about Myriad’s hereditary cancer test and risk assessment,

MyRisk® Hereditary Cancer Test with RiskScore®, please visit: