Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer-related deaths among Australian women, with an estimated 1,613 new cases to be diagnosed within this year. While some of these are inherited, others occur due to lifestyle or hormonal reasons.
This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. You can take part in many ways. Wear a teal ribbon, donate to the cause or raise awareness wherever you can.
Ovarian cancer comprises a range of different cancerous tumours that occur in the cells that line the ovaries, the egg cells and the fallopian tubes.
The symptoms of this cancer are often those that many women normally experience now and then, meaning it is often silent and diagnosed at an advanced stage.
However, there are signs and symptoms, that, if they occur persistently and in unison, it is best to consult a GP about. They Include:
- Pain in the pelvis
- Enlarged abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent and urgent urination
- Bloating and constipation
- Feeling of being full following small meals
- Unexpected weight gain or loss
- Bleeding after menopause or between periods
- Back pain
- Unexplained fatigue
The Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Symptom Diary is a great place to record of any these symptoms before you go to see the doctor.
There are some factors that can increase your likelihood of developing ovarian cancer, including:
- Age: 60% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over the age of 60.
- Heredity: Having the breast cancer gene (BRCA1) increases the chance of ovarian cancer.
- Breaks to the ovulation cycle: women who have not had their ovulation cycles disrupted by pregnancy, sterilisation or some forms of contraception could be slightly more at risk. This is because the ovaries have not been able to have a ‘break’ to rest and repair the surface.
- Infertility: Infertile women as well as those who may have used oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy are also at a potentially higher at risk.
- Lifestyle: smoking, a fatty diet or being overweight can significantly increase the chance of ovarian cancer.
- Hormones: women who began their menstruation before the age of 12 or experienced menopause after the age of 50 are at a greater risk due to the natural hormones produced by their bodies.
- Endometriosis: This is the condition where the cells lining the uterus can be found in other parts of the reproductive system. Women diagnosed with this condition are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
But, there is some hope. A new test, developed this year and named CancerSEEK, has been developed by researchers in Australia and the U.S. Through this simple blood test people can be screened for not only ovarian cancer but other major cancers such as breast, lung and stomach cancers, and more. It is able to identify the presence and in many cases the locations of these cancers. Currently it costs $1000 for the test, but it has the potential to save 20-30% of the lives of people suffering from these cancers.
This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month remember to be aware of how you can both prevent and spot the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
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