Ovarian Cancer – do you have the symptoms?

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in Australia, and yet it is one of least talked about. Many women don’t know the risks or warning signs.

During the month of February, we are proudly wearing the teal ribbon and sharing our insights for a better understanding of ovarian cancer, and to show our support for patients who have been diagnosed.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a term used to describe a cancerous (malignant) tumour occurring in one or both of the ovaries.

The ovaries are two almond shaped organs that form a part of the female reproductive system, including the vagina, fallopian tubes and cervix. The ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and contain cells that develop into reproductive eggs called ova.

What are the types of ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer falls into three categories because they behave differently, and they require different treatment.

Epithelial tumours are the most common, found in the cell lining in the epithelial layer (surface layer) occurring in about 90% of all diagnosed cases.
Germ cell tumours are most rare and account for 5% of ovarian cancers.
Stromal cell and other rare types include sex-cord stromal cell, stomal tumours and sarcomas.

With more than 200 rare forms of cancer identified, there are hospitals, cancer centres and specialist clinicians that continue to research and develop new ways to prevent, treat and manage ovarian cancer.

At SmartClinics we are dedicated to helping women and families understand and manage ovarian cancer from diagnosis through to ongoing patient care.

What is my risk of ovarian cancer?

The exact causes are unknown but there are some known factors, that may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer:

Age.

Ovarian cancer can happen at any age but it is most common in women who have been through menopause. The average diagnosed age is 64 years.

Hereditary.

Biological traits passed on through one generation to another has been identified as a causefor approximately 20% of women diagnosed, these include:

a strong family history of ovarian, breast or other cancers (colorectal or endometrial)
a higher incidence of BRCA mutations than the general population

Other factors.

Research has shown that other factors may increase the risk of ovarian cancer:

having endometriosis, a previous breast cancer or diabetes
use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
being overweight
smoking
women who have not had children have a slightly higher risk

What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer?

There is no early detection sign for ovarian cancer. While many symptoms may be caused by less serious medical conditions, you recommend visiting your GP for any persistent ailments such as:

increased abdominal size or persistent bloating
abdominal or pelvic pain
needing to urinate often
feeling full after eating a small amount

With additional symptoms of:

changes to bowel habits
unexplained weight gain or loss
excessive fatigue
lower back pain
Indigestion or nausea
Bleeding after menopause or in between periods

 

Is there any way I can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer?

Risk, prevention and management should always be discussed with a GP that knowns your full medical history and can assess the right plan for you.

Research indicates there is a reduced ovarian cancer risk from certain factors:

surgically removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes
having children
using oral contraceptives

Whatever you do, don’t stay at home and worry, come on in and talk to us. Our friendly GP’s will advise the fully examine any symptoms and begin a process to alleviate any concerns.

At SmartClinics our women’s health GP’s are committed to raising awareness and supporting women with any ovarian cancer queries or concerns. Please don’t be shy about discussing ovarian cancer with us. Your health is of paramount importance to us and we are here to support you.

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