Ovarian cancer originates from the ovaries, which is part of a woman’s reproductive system. In many cases, ovarian cancer is not diagnosed until the cancer cells have spread to the pelvis and abdomen, which makes it harder to treat — and may even become fatal.
Some important facts about ovarian cancer: Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in women, and the 18th most common cancer overall. In 2018, there were nearly 300,000 new cases. From among the top 25 countries with the highest rates in ovarian cancer, the Philippines ranked 16th, with Serbia and Brunei taking the top two spots, respectively.
Causes of Ovarian Cancer
The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. But there are factors that may increase a woman’s risk. These include:
- Being over the age of 50
- A family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer
- Having undergone or is undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Having endometriosis
- Being overweight/obese
- Lack of exercise
- Exposure to asbestos
How Do I Know if I Have Ovarian Cancer?
Some important facts about ovarian cancer: Ovarian cancer in its early stages rarely causes any symptoms. If it does, these are usually mistaken as signs of harmless conditions such as constipation. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Swelling in the abdominal area
- Early satiety
- Weight loss
- Pelvic discomfort
- Problems with bowel movements
- Frequent urination
Consult your general physician or your ob-gyne regularly, especially if you experience any of these symptoms and have a family history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
Important Facts About Ovarian Cancer: Diagnosis
During a physical exam, your doctor will examine your pelvic area. To accurately diagnose your condition, your doctor may require you to undergo other imaging tests, blood tests, and even a biopsy.
To describe the severity of the condition, ovarian cancer has four stages:
- At stage 1, the cancer is in one or both ovaries.
- During stage 2, the cancerous cells have spread to other pelvic areas.
- At stage 3, the cancerous cells have spread to the abdominal areas.
- Finally at stage 4, the cancerous cells have spread outside of the pelvic and abdominal areas.
What Is the Treatment for Ovarian Cancer?
There are numerous approaches to treating and managing ovarian cancer. Depending on the stage of the disease at the time of your diagnosis, your treatment may vary.
The following are options for treatment.
- Surgery: Depending on the severity of the cancer, surgery may entail removing an ovary or both ovaries, fallopian tubes, your uterus, lymph nodes and the omentum (fatty abdominal tissue).
- Chemotherapy: Medication is used to kill the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered intravenously or directly into the abdominal cavity or both.
- Targeted therapy: Medication is used to treat specific cancer cells.
- Palliative (supportive) care: This focuses on providing comfort and relief, so that patients may enjoy a better quality of life.
Important facts about ovarian cancer: If diagnosed early, ovarian cancer can be treated with positive outcomes. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for all types of ovarian cancer is 45%. Additionally, people who are diagnosed and get medical intervention before age 65 have a higher survival rate than those who are older. And those diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer and succeed in getting treatment immediately have a 92% 5-year survival rate. Because of this, medical professionals encourage that more women have themselves checked by a doctor. But only 15% of cases are diagnosed at this stage.
How Can Women Prevent Ovarian Cancer?
Leading a healthier lifestyle — which includes maintaining your ideal weight, eating a balanced diet, and being more active — may help in reducing the risk of cancer.
Important facts about ovarian cancer: It has also been found that women who use oral contraceptives or birth control pills for five or more years successfully decrease their risk of ovarian cancer by 50%. This is because contraceptives prevent ovulation, or the release of an egg from the ovary every month. By preventing ovulation, there is the reduced risk of cell mutation, which may trigger the disease.
Another important fact: the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that extended breastfeeding significantly lowers the risk of ovarian cancer by reducing the number of times a woman ovulates.
Tubal ligation and hysterectomies also decrease the chance of women developing ovarian cancer. But these types of invasive surgeries are discouraged especially in women who are of child-bearing age.
It is best to consult your doctor as well if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, and carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. These might merit the removal of your ovaries before cancer develops.
Coping with Ovarian Cancer
Dealing with ovarian cancer may get emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. This is why medical professionals encourage that you find a support group. These may be select family, friends, and workmates. You may also want to consider reaching out to other cancer patients and survivors, or connect with online cancer support groups.
It is good to know the important facts about ovarian cancer and learn how you can reduce your cancer risk. When it comes to dealing and overcoming this disease, it is best to surround yourself with a supportive network of loved ones and seek the best medical help. While a serious medical condition, ovarian cancer can be treated successfully with positive outcomes.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.