Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. There are more than a hundred distinct types of cancer but every type has a different survival rate. In cancer, abnormal or damaged cells divide uncontrollably to form tumours which are lumps of tissue. Some tumours may be cancerous and some may not be but they can spread in the body through either the bloodstream or the lymph system. Cancer can develop anywhere in the body and is named after the body part where it starts.
In this article, we will help you learn all about ovarian cancer, its signs and symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, tests, treatment and prevention from ovarian cancer.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
The female reproductive system contains two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries make female hormones and produce eggs for reproduction. Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries and develops when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply quickly and divide in an uncontrolled way to form a tumour. If the tumour is left untreated or not diagnosed, it can spread to other parts of the body called metastatic ovarian cancer.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- abdominal bloating, swelling and pelvic pain
- quick fullness after eating
- no appetite or difficulty eating
- frequent need to urinate
- weight loss
- discomfort in the pelvic area
- back pain
- constipation or diarrhea
- bleeding from vagina after menopause
It is important to note that with ovarian cancer, these symptoms will be more than usual in your typical routine. The frequency and the number of these symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. However, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed late as the symptoms are not always noticeable.
The main cause of ovarian cancer is unknown but there are certain things that increase the risk of the disease. The risk of developing ovarian cancer in women increases with age, with more than half of cases above the age of 50. Several factors may increase a woman’s risk, such as:
- inherited a faulty gene such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- a family history of ovarian cancer
- a personal history of breast, uterine or colon cancer
- had radiotherapy treatment for a previous cancer
- have endometriosis or diabetes
- the use of certain fertility drugs or hormone therapies
- early or late periods
- have never used any hormonal contraception
- no history of pregnancy
- being overweight or obese
However, these risk factors may or may not be necessary to have ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is not easy to detect but if diagnosed in its early stage, it can be treated well. It is important to report any unusual or persistent symptoms to the doctor.
The doctor will recommend a pelvic exam if you are experiencing gynaecological symptoms such as pelvic pain, unusual vaginal bleeding, skin changes, abnormal vaginal discharge or urinary problems. Performing a pelvic exam can help your doctor discover irregularities, but small ovarian tumours are very difficult to feel.
The doctor will perform certain blood tests including cancer antigen 125 (CA-125). This test may be used to monitor certain cancers during and after treatment. The doctor might also ask to perform an ultrasound scan (internal or external) to see if there are changes in the ovaries.
The tests may include:
- abdominal and pelvic CT scan
- chest CT scan
- needle biopsy
The treatment for ovarian cancer will depend on several factors such as the type of ovarian cancer, stage of cancer, where the cancer is if it has spread and the general health of the patient.
The main treatments for ovarian cancer are surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery can be done if cancer has not spread out side of the ovaries. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it may need more surgery to remove as much of it as possible.
Other treatments include radiotherapy, targeted therapies and hormone treatments.
The doctor will create a treatment plan that best suits the patient and advise for regular check-ups during and after any treatments.
There is no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer. But there are a few factors that may lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer include:
- birth control pills
- surgical procedures on reproductive organs
Other than these, lifestyle modification may help to reduce the risk of cancer. Avoid smoking, alcohol consumption and sun exposure. Try to eat a healthy diet as much as possible and be physically active.
Ovarian cancer is the second most common cancer found in women, in Pakistan, but it can be cured if found and treated early. It is advised to see a doctor, preferably a gynaecologist, if you have any new or unusual symptoms for more than two weeks. It is recommended to visit the doctor for regular screenings and to seek help if any symptoms appear as this will increase the chance of receiving effective treatment.
To book an online or physical consultation withthe best gynaecologist/oncologist in Karachi visit https://www.shifaam.com. You can also download the Shifaam Health Appfrom Google Play Store (bit.ly/2JqZo3C) or the iOS App Store(apple.co/2QUVxQz). We are just a call 021-37132273 or Whatsapp 0347 7222273away!
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