Ovarian Cancer: The most Deadly of Women’s Cancers

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Ovarian Cancer

 

Ovarian Cancer is the most fatal gynecological cancer.

It is usually overlooked and under-diagnosed.  Did you know there is no effective screening test? No vaccine for it? Are you familiar with its symptoms? 

Keep reading to find out more.  Awareness is key!

 

 

Facts:

  • Ovarian cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers in women. [1]
  • It is the 5th cause of cancer for women; however, it is the most serious and deadly  of gynecologic cancers. [2]
  • In 2014, it is estimated that nearly 22,000 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States, and approximately 14,000 died of the disease.[3]
  • There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer
  • There is no vaccine to prevent this type of cancer

 

So, What exactly is Ovarian Cancer? What types of ovarian cancer exist?

 

Ovarian Cancer

 

Ovarian Cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. The ovaries and fallopian tubes are part of a women’s reproductive system. Women have two ovaries, one on each side. Their normal function is to produce eggs (ova) for conception and certain hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

When the cells in the ovaries grow abnormally or under an uncontrolled division they form a tumor or malignant growth known as cancer.

There are different types of ovarian cancer, classified according to the cell from which they arise. The most common type are epithelial tumors – they begin in cells on the outer surface (or epithelium) of the ovary or at the end of the fallopian tubes. Epithelial tumors account for 90% of all ovarian cancers. [4]

 

What increases my risk of ovarian cancer?

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, however your risk is higher if:

  • You have a genetic mutation associated with ovarian cancer (for example BRCA gene mutation).
  • You are over 50 years old
  • Someone in your family has a history of ovarian, breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer
  • Are of Ashkenazi Jewish Descent
  • Never being pregnant

 

If you have any of these factors it is recommended that you speak to your physician and get checked out. Talking to your doctor will help you fully understand your individual risk for ovarian or any other cancer.

There are also a few factors that research has proven beneficial in decreasing the risk of ovarian cancer.  These include: taking birth control pills, having term pregnancies, breast feeding, having a tubal ligation, removing your ovaries and fallopian tubes.

 

Why is ovarian cancer so deadly?

It is estimated that 55% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer die within five years of their diagnosis.[5] This is due to the fact that ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread and in its late or advanced stages it is very difficult to treat.  Ovarian cancer is often overlooked and under-diagnosed in part by lack of early symptoms and in part by a lack of effective screening tests.

 

How is it diagnosed?

There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer. Pap smears or a mammogram do not detect problems in the ovaries.  Therefore you must visit your doctor regularly and get a pelvic exam.  You can also get a transvaginal ultrasound if there is any doubt.

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect and can be easily overlooked because its symptoms can signal a variety of conditions. The most common symptoms are:

  • Bloating
  • Difficulty eating
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Change in urinary habits
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss or weight gain

Speak with your doctor if you notice new symptoms that persist for three or more weeks.

 

What happens if I have ovarian cancer?

If your doctor suspects ovarian cancer, see a gynecological oncologist to discuss further treatment options.   Ovarian cancer can be treated with surgery or chemotherapy.

 

References:

·      Ovarian Cancer Canada – http://www.ovariancanada.org
·      National Cancer Institute – http://www.cancer.gov
·      Johns Hopkins Manual of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 5th ed. China: Wolters
·      Kluwer, 2015. Print.
·      “A Snapshot of Ovarian Cancer.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., 5 Nov.   2014.http://www.cancer.gov/research/progress/snapshots/ovarian.

 

[1] Ovarian Cancer Canada
[2] National Cancer Institute
[3] National Cancer Institute
[4] National Cancer Institute
[5] Ovarian Cancer Canada

 

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