World Cancer Day: Focusing on Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian Cancer is not as common as cervical cancer, and it can not be detected with the Pap test. The symptoms that accompany ovarian cancer can be easily mistaken as common digestive or gastrointestinal problems. If ovarian cancer advances to a further stage, the symptoms might become prominent. People who have a family history of ovarian cancer are more at risk. Doctors say that taking oral contraceptives on a regular basis can reduce the risk of developing the disease.
The 2010 statistics for Bangladesh on age standardized death rates per 100,000 ranks ovarian cancer as the 45th highest cause of deaths in the country. ‘Ovarian.org’ stated that 1 in 78 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Due to its supposedly ‘normal’ symptoms, ovarian cancer is rarely detected in its early stage. This results in a very low ovarian cancer survival rate as most cases are detected at a stage when it is too late.
What are Ovaries?
As the name suggests, ovarian cancer takes place in the ovaries. Women have two ovaries on each side of the uterus. According to Mayo Clinic, each ovary is about the size of an almond. The cancerous cells form inside or around the ovaries. Ovaries are responsible for producing oocytes (eggs), and the hormones- estrogen and progesterone.
Who is at risk?
- People who have a family history of ovarian cancer are more at risk. If you have a close relative who have suffered from ovarian cancer, it is a wise preventive strategy to consult with the doctor to look for risks or symptoms.
- Women beyond the age of 45, or after menopause are more at risk of being diagnosed.
- Long term use of estrogen hormone replacement therapy, particularly in large doses have an increased risk.
- In rare cases, ovarian cancer is caused by gene mutations that are inherited from parents. These genes are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 (Breast Cancer Gene 1 and 2).
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Pelvic and abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty in eating
- Frequency in urination
Tests and Procedures to Diagnose Ovarian Cancer
- Pelvic Exam: A doctor will insert fingers inside the vagina and simultaneously press the abdomen to palpate the pelvic organs. The doctor will also visually examine the external genital area.
- Ultrasound: Doctors may use imaging tests such as ultrasound to examine the ovaries.
- Surgery: In extreme cases, doctors might suggest surgery to get rid of ovarian cancer. This might include the removal of the uterus and cervix along with both Fallopian tubes and ovaries. If the woman wishes to have children, then one ovary and one Fallopian tube is removed.