Basic facts, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer
Posted Dec 25 2012 12:51pm
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is the 9th most common cancer in women in the 5th most deadliest of them all. Of all gynecological cancers, ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate, mainly because only about 15 percent of the patients are being diagnosed at an early stage, which allows successful treatment and recovery. The reason for this overall late diagnosis is because ovarian cancer is quite difficult to find and often has little or no symptoms.
Ovarian cancer has very subtle symptoms, which often are overlooked as nothing serious, and include: pelvic pain, bloating and a feeling of fullness, loss of appetite and difficulty eating and the urge to urinate more frequently, vaginal bleeding, pain during sex and in some cases even back and leg pain.
The causes of ovarian cancer unfortunately are not clear, but there are some correlations which show which women are at a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer. These include
- Age: women at 55 or older are more likely to be diagnosed.
- Genes: if your mother, daughter or sister have ovarian cancer, you are more likely to become affected as well.
- Women who haven’t given birth are more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
- Women who have a history of other cancers, have a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer.
- Long-term hormonal replacement therapy which includes only estrogens (without progesterone) increases the risk of getting ovarian cancer.
Women should always inform their doctors if they feel they fall into the risk group for ovarian cancer, because unfortunately unlike cervical and breast cancers there is no routine prophylactic screening test for ovarian cancer. Many women believe that the PAP test will test for ovarian cancer, but this is not true, the PAP smear is for the detection of cervical cancer only.
The ways to diagnose ovarian cancer include: a pelvic exam, external and internal ultrasound, x-rays, blood test and a biopsy done by laparotomy or laparoscopy.
So, there is no routine screening tests you can go to periodically, the symptoms are often so subtle you won’t even notice them, the question is –is there a way to prevent getting this cancer?
So far, there are some preventive measures women can take to avoid getting only one type of ovarian cancer – the epithelial one (90 percent of all ovarian cancers have been determined to be epithelial or in other words developed from the surface of the ovary/ovaries).
So, to prevent epithelial ovarian cancer, a woman can take birth control pills, which have proven to reduce the risk for women, especially those who take oral contraceptives for more than five years.
Women with hysterectomies, removal of the ovaries and tubes, or tubal litigation have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. Of course these surgeries should be done only in case there is a valid medical reason for them, or if a woman has a high risk of getting ovarian cancer and is postmenopausal.
The good news is that a tendency for an increasing survival rate has been seen, based on the improved early diagnosis and treatment methods of ovarian cancer.
The must for every girl and woman though is to pay attention to her body, and if any symptoms appear to immediately inform her doctor. The earlier this disease is diagnosed, the better the chances are of beating it!