Ovarian Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal ovarian cells. The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system and produce an egg each month for fertilisation.
Ovarian Cancer is more common than cervical and endometrial cancer. New cases of Ovarian Cancer are most likely to be diagnosed later in life (peaking when women are in their 80s) and are uncommon before the age of 40. It is more common in industrialised nations and is associated with problems with ovarian function, infertility, and frequent miscarriage. Oestrogen replacement after menopause does not appear to increase the risk of Ovarian cancer. The most important risk factor for this cancer is a family history of the disease. Women with one affected first degree relative have a 5% lifetime risk compared with a 1.6% risk in the general population. Familial cases account for about 5% of all Ovarian Cancer.
There is clear scientific evidence that prevention reduces the risk of Ovarian Cancer. For example, the risk of Ovarian Cancer is reduced by between 30 to 40 percent in women who have at least one child. The use of the combined oral contraceptive pill (OCP) also reduces the risk of developing Ovarian Cancer by 40 percent. Using the OCP for as little as 3 to 6 months provides a protective effect for 15 years after use has ended. Tubal ligation is associated with a 30 percent reduction in mortality from Ovarian Cancer.
Signs and symptoms
In the early stages before it has spread, Ovarian Cancer is usually asymptomatic (there are no symptoms). As the tumour grows, however, it can press on and grow into surrounding structures, producing symptoms such as a frequent urge to urinate and constipation. There may also be dull abdominal pain and bloating or swelling. Remember that these symptoms are also common in diseases other than Ovarian Cancer.
It is important to get these symptoms checked by a Doctor. This will involve a physical examination, including a pelvic examination. The Doctor will be feeling for any unusual lumps in the area. Lumps on the ovaries are often benign (non-cancerous) and can come and go with hormonal changes. If symptoms of Ovarian Cancer are present, this generally indicates that the disorder has progresssed considerably. Regular check-ups from your Doctor can help pick up abnormalities early. This is particularly important if you have risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.
In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. Regular check-ups from your Doctor are an important step in the prevention of any disease. If discovered early in the course of the disease, Ovarian Cancer is commonly curable. Diagnosis is usually confirmed using laparoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the abdomen. A variety of other imaging techniques can help the Doctor to determine the location and spread of the Cancer. This is called staging the cancer. Staging refers to the degree to which the cancer has spread beyond its original location. The lower the stage, the less the Cancer has spread. In most cases treatment involves the surgical removal of as much of the cancer as possible. Higher staged cancers may also require chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In later stages of Ovarian Cancer, symptom and pain relief may be the goal of treatment.
- A high dietary intake of green, leafy vegetables and fibre is thought to reduce the risks of developing Ovarian Cancer.
- Reducing intake of saturated fat may reduce the risks of developing Ovarian Cancer. Dietary fat should comprise no more than 30% of total calorie intake, with saturated fat representing less than 8% of this amount.
Always consult your Doctor before taking any dietary supplements for advice on any possible side effects or drug interactions. This is particularly important during cancer therapy, as many chemotherapy drugs act by blocking the effects of certain vitamins.
- Vitamin A and vitamin A derivatives have been found to reduce the growth of Ovarian Cancer cells in cancers that are resistant to many cancer treatments.
- Vitamin E may protect normal cells from damage during radiotherapy treatments.
- The flavonoid quercetin has been found to reduce the growth rate of Ovarian Cancer cells.
- Substances found in hops have been shown to reduce the proliferation of Ovarian Cancer cells.