Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and as it has directly affected one of my best friend’s recently, I believe it is my duty to share more information about this horrible disease.
Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour starting in one or both of the ovaries. The ovaries are made up of three main kinds of cells – epithelial cells, stromal cells and germ cells. Each of these cells can develop into a different type of tumour.
Little did I know, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in Australia. About 1,532 Australian women are diagnosed with it each year.
Unfortunately there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, so all women need to be aware of the symptoms. The most commonly reported symptoms for ovarian cancer are below:
- Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
- Abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain
- Feeling full after eating a small amount
- Needing to urinate often or urgently
- Changes in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Excessive fatigue
- Lower back pain
- Indigestion or nausea
- Bleeding after menopause or in-between periods
- Pain during sex or bleeding after
Although the average age of diagnosis is 63, this cancer can affect the young and healthy too. My best friend is 30 years old and extremely fit and healthy. Just before Christmas last year she visited her doctor for a check up after experiencing some very minor symptoms. She was then sent for scans and it was revealed that she had ovarian cancer and needed immediate surgery to remove the tumour. She then underwent a full hysterectomy this month and is starting chemo in the next week. This goes to show that this horrible cancer doesn’t just affect the older generations.
What are the risk factors?
The causes of most ovarian cancers are unknown, but the risk factors include:
- age – ovarian cancer is most common in women over 50 and in women who have stopped menstruating (have been through menopause), and the risk increases with age
- genetic factors – up to 20% of serous ovarian cancers (the most common subtype) are linked to an inherited faulty gene, and a smaller proportion of other types of ovarian cancer are also related to genetic faults
- family history – having one or more close blood relatives diagnosed with ovarian, breast, bowel or uterine cancers, or having Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
- reproductive history – women who have not had children or who had children over the age of 35 may be slightly more at risk
- lifestyle factors – such as smoking and being overweight
- hormonal factors – including early puberty or late menopause, or using oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for five years or more.
I hope this post helps to raise awareness for the signs and symptoms of this deadly disease and may possibly even save a life!
If you would like to contribute to raising money for Ovarian Cancer, head to the www.ovariancancer.net.au page, where you can chose to donate money, sign up to host a Teal Tea or buy merchandise online.