Ovarian cancer is the most terminal type of gynecologic cancer, taking the lives of nearly 15,000 women each year. Difficulty in detection is what makes this disease malignant. Although symptoms such as constipation, abdominal pressure, and loss of appetite exist, they are too ambiguous and often misinterpreted as premenstrual or perimenopausal symptoms. Doctors can’t always diagnose ovarian cancer until it’s in advanced stages and has spread to many other organs.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Deemed as the silent killer because of its vague and easily misdiagnosed symptoms, ovarian cancer refers to any abnormal growth that occurs in the ovary. Abnormal cells begin to multiply out of control and form a tumor that can spread and infect other parts of the body.
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the 8th most common type of cancer among women in the United States. It is also the 5th most common cause of cancer deaths among women. Of all the gynecologic cancers, ovarian cancer has the highest percentage of deaths.
What You Should Take Note Of
1. Family history increases your risk.
The potential for ovarian cancer to occur increases if your mother, sister, or any blood-related female family member has had the disease. Having more relatives with the disease also heightens the risk of ovarian cancer. Increased risk may also come from your father’s side of the family since cancer can be caused by inherited mutations in the genes.
2. Having regular gynecologic check-ups is key.
Up to 90% of women are likely to survive if ovarian cancer is detected during its early stages. If you possess any symptoms of ovarian cancer, you should be referred directly to a specialist to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
The most common symptoms include:
- Loss of or increase in appetite
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Urinary urgency or frequency
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual changes
- Abdominal swelling with weight loss
3. Taking oral contraceptives can help.
Taking birth control pills prevent you from ovulating. Every month, your body experiences upheaving changes wherein a majority of cells replicate to release an egg. The more replication, the greater the risk of cell mutation which leads to cancer.
The decrease in risk becomes evident after three to six months of using the pill, and the risk is lower the longer you take oral contraceptives. The effect continues for many years even after the pill is stopped.
4. Having kids might protect you.
If you’re thinking of making additions to your family, you’re in luck because being pregnant can deflate the risk of having ovarian cancer. Interruptions during ovulation can lower the risk, says Robin Cohen, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation.
5. Obesity can awaken ovarian cancer cells.
Various studies have found a connection between obesity and ovarian cancer. A 2009 study revealed that obese women between the ages of 50 to 71 have an 80 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer. Just consider it a form of motivation to watch what you eat and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Women can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer in a number of ways. However, there is no prevention method nor vaccine for the disease. Women of all ages, sizes, and race are at risk because although there are risk factors, ovarian cancer is not confined to a particular group. A trusted health care professional can help a woman identify ways to reduce her risk.