Ovarian cancer is the most common type of cancer (besides breast cancer) among the female population. Sometimes, ovarian cancer comes together with many other diseases, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, irregular periods, and after hormone replacement therapies.
This disease is most common in women over their 60s, but that doesn’t mean that teenage girls and young women at the age of 20-30 are safe. Even though ovarian cancer is most commonly seen in older women, it can affect every female in the world. At the highest risk are those women who have a family history of this disease or some genetic mutations that are closely connected to breast and ovarian cancer. Nearly 7 out of 100 women in the world are diagnosed with breast cancer and they are at very high risk to get sick with ovarian cancer later.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
- Irregular and painful periods
- Irregular bleeding in between periods
- Pain in the region of the pelvic cavity and abdomen
- Urge for urination even when the bladder is empty (because tumors are pressing the bladder)
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms are typical for more diseases and conditions, from heavy periods to endometriosis. Sometimes, there can be a misdiagnosis because the symptoms can be confused and cancer will be discovered when it is too late. That is why every woman at every age should insist on making her regular gynecologic examinations. If she has a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, she has a bigger risk to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer later.
There are blood and genetic tests that can determine the risks and the stage (if there is ovarian cancer) of the disease. The blood test is called CA-125 and the genetic test should recognize if there are mutations called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Gene mutations are most commonly found in women with breast cancer, but they can also cause ovarian cancer.
At the highest risk are those women who never had kids, who have some unexplained reason for infertility, or who had their first child after the age of 30. If there is any suspicion that there is a possibility for ovarian cancer, the woman should immediately visit her gynecologist, who will run some ultrasound examinations of the pelvic cavity. Every woman should have gynecologic examinations once or twice a year (or more if needed). It is the only way to discover the potential diseases in the pelvic cavity in the early stages.
If the gynecologist is not sure with the diagnosis, he/she may refer his/her patient to an internist and a gynecologic oncologist. They will make more precise examinations such as X-ray and CT scans, blood tumor markers, and biopsy of the ovarian tissues. The specialist called gynecologic oncologist will determine what type of therapy is needed and will take care of their patient’s health condition.
Not only women but also men can do a lot for their general health if they are in control of their lifestyle. To lower the risk of any type of cancer, every person should:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise a lot to stay at a healthy weight.
- Eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Limit the weekly quantity of alcohol and never go above it.
- Protect your skin even when you are not on a vacation.
Ask your relatives if your family has a history of cancer. Get regular checkups with your family doctor and gynecologist for early screening and detection of cancer.