WHAT IS OVARIAN CANCER?
Ovarian cancer is cancer arising from the cells in and around the ovaries and fallopian tubes. There are many different types of ovarian tumours, each classified by the types of cells and tissue from which they originate. Every woman in the world is at risk of developing ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer, and the eighth most common cause of death from cancer in women in the world.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER?
Ovarian cancer symptoms are frequently mistakenly attributed to other causes. The following symptoms can also often be experienced by women without ovarian cancer.
WHO IS AT RISK?
While the cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing it.
For example, women who have not had children tend to be more at risk; women who are tall; women who smoke; women exposed to asbestos; and women who have a history of cancer in their family are generally more at risk than others. That being said, any woman has the potential to develop ovarian cancer at any time in her life. That’s why knowing the signs and symptoms of the illness is vital.
WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK
The following are some factors that may reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, it is important to consider the other risks which may be associated with them, and to remember that although these factors may lower the risk, they won’t prevent you from developing ovarian cancer.
- Hysterectomy and/or having your tubes tied
Having your ovaries and fallopian tubes removed reduces your chances of getting ovarian cancer significantly. However, it does not entirely eliminate all risk, as a rarer form of the disease can develop in the lining of the peritoneal cavity.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
It is recognized that an increased number of ovulatory cycles raises the risk of ovarian cancer and conversely a decreased number of cycles (for example during pregnancy and breastfeeding) reduces the risk.
- The contraceptive pill
The combined contraceptive pill is known to almost halve the risk of ovarian cancer if taken for five years or more.
1. A Pap test (cervical smear test) does not detect ovarian cancer.
There is currently no screening test for ovarian cancer. A Pap test detects pre-cancerous changes to cells of the cervix, which is treated much more successfully than ovarian cancer.
2. All women are at risk of ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed annually in more than 230,000 women globally. It is important to be aware of symptoms, risk factors and your family history on both your father and mother’s side of the family.
3. Diagnosing ovarian cancer before it spreads makes it much more treatable.
When ovarian cancer is detected at an early stage – when the cancer remains confined to the ovary – up to 90% of women are likely to survive for more than five years. This compares to 17% surviving five or more years when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. A woman who has symptoms suggestive of ovarian cancer should be referred directly to a specialist to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
4. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are commonly experienced in the general population. But letting your doctor know how often you are experiencing symptoms is an important step in helping them know when they should consider ovarian cancer as a possible cause. A symptom diary may be helpful. Increased awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer can make a difference.
5. Symptom awareness may lead to a quicker diagnosis.
If a woman experiences one or more of the following symptoms frequently, it is important that she discuss them with her doctor.
– Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
– Difficulty eating / feeling full quickly
– Abdominal or pelvic pain
– Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently
While these symptoms are often associated with more common and less serious conditions, it is better to check them out.
Please speak to your local GP if you have any concerns about Ovarian Cancer