What is Ovarian Cancer, Am I Prone to it, and Other Questions on the Disease Answered

What is Ovarian Cancer, Am I Prone to it, and Other Questions on the Disease Answered

Charmaine Kon by Charmaine Kon on May 8, 2017
Why you should care

No better time to learn more about this common disease than now.

The 8th of May is World Ovarian Cancer Day, so there’s no better time to learn more about this disease that affects 1 in 75 women (statistics taken within the United States, by American Cancer Society).

This disease should not be taken lightly, seeing as over 22,000 women in America are diagnosed with it yearly, and the 5-year survival rate for a tumour that has spread is only 46% in most developed countries (statistics by Cancer Research UK).

We found the answers to some of the most common questions on the disease.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Women have 2 ovaries located on either side of the uterus to produce sex hormones and store and release eggs (ova). Most cancers are caused by the unregulated manner in which cells divide and multiply; ovarian cancer occurs when those abnormal cells grow in one or both of those ovaries.

Am I Prone to This Disease?

While there are no definite direct causes, there are risk factors. Those who have more risk factors are more likely to be prone to this cancer. They include:

  • Age – women over 65 years old.
  • Family history – women with close relatives who have been diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer – women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Total lifetime ovulations – the more ovulations a woman has had in her lifetime, the higher her risk of ovarian cancer. This means that those who started their period early, hit menopause later, never gotten pregnant, and never taken oral contraceptives.
  • Overweight – women who are obese or overweight.
  • Infertility or fertility treatments – studies have shown a link between infertility treatments and the risk of ovarian cancer. It is undetermined if the risk factor is the infertility or the corresponding fertility treatments.
  • Endometriosis – women diagnosed with endometriosis.
  • Hormone replacement therapy – women who have undergone hormone replacement therapy.

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Most early stages of the cancer go undetected, because the symptoms either don’t occur or they look too much like PMS or irritable bowel syndrome.

If you have any of these symptoms that are persistent, worsening, or just out of the ordinary, it’s best to check with your doctor.

  • Bloating with persistent gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Unexplained change in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • New and unexplained abnormal postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
  • Frequent or urgent urination

What Can I do to Prevent This Disease?

If you’re 21 or older, you should already be seeing a gynaecologist regularly to perform checks on your reproductive organs (pap test, breast exam, pelvic exam, etc). Tell your gynaecologist about your risk factors and ask for advice on the checks you should be doing, and how frequently you should be doing them.

The tests that check for ovarian cancer are a pelvic-rectal exam, a vaginal sonography, and a CA125 blood rest. Having said that, these tests are imperfect and may not detect the cancer at an early stage.

Are There Treatments for Ovarian Cancer?

Typically, one of the combination of the following are prescribed to treat this cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

The treatment type is chosen based on the patient’s condition and the type, stage, and grade of the cancer.

Why you should care

No better time to learn more about this common disease than now.

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