Ovarian cancer facts you should know.

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects women only, in the area of the reproductive system. While some people are aware of ovarian cancer, a large number of people are still in the dark about it. Today on the blog, we’ll talk about the important facts we all need to know about ovarian cancer as women. We will also learn the important information we will need to teach others about this fatal disease.

First off, what is Cancer?

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Cancer is the abnormal, rapid growth of cells in the body. These cells begin to behave abnormally, spread to other parts of the body, attack and destroy the body.

What are the Ovaries?

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The ovaries are two almond/oval-shaped glands found on either side of the uterus. They are an essential part of the female reproductive system. Production of the egg (ova) which gets fertilized by the sperm and becomes the foetus is a major function of these glands. The ovaries also produce two very important female hormones, progesterone and oestrogen. These hormones regulate the female reproductive processes. 

The ovaries play a huge role in the regulation of the hormonal interplay between oestrogen and progesterone in the female reproductive system.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

In simple terms, Ovarian cancer is an abnormal, rapid growth of cells of the ovaries which distorts the ovarian function, destroys other parts of the body and will eventually cause death.

What causes ovarian cancer?

There are no known direct causes of ovarian cancer. Studies have identified multiple risk factors. These factors increase the risk of getting it. Some of these risk factors are:

  • A family history of a mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  • A family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer.
  • Previous history of breast, uterine or colorectal cancer.
  • Not being pregnant or having the first child at a late age.
  • Older women.
  • Being obese.
  • Taking hormonal therapy after menopause.
  • Using fertility treatments.

How do you know if you have it?

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Unfortunately, the early symptoms of ovarian cancer are non-specific. This means that it is not easily caught by the early symptoms alone. Some of the early symptoms include:

  • Bloating.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Early satiation (feeling full quicker than normal when eating)
  • Urinating more than usual. Also, feeling a more urgent need to urinate all the time.
  • Feeling nauseated frequently.
  • Weight gain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Indigestion.
  • Lumps or swelling of the abdomen.

Later symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the vagina or abnormal vaginal discharge, especially post-menopause.
  • Pain or a feeling of painful pressure in the pelvic region.
  • Back pain.

It goes without saying that you should see a doctor if needed. You should also choose to see a gynaecologist instead of a general practitioner

A very important point to note is that Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancers at all. This is one of the reasons why it is very important to see a specialist who has a high index of suspicion for the disease.

Treatment

If caught early enough, treatment may be done. This involves removing as much of the growth as possible. Surgery and chemotherapy are the mainstays of treatment.

How can I prevent ovarian cancer?

There is no specific regimen for treatment. Case studies have identified a few protective factors;

  • Getting pregnant and breastfeeding your baby before the age of 26. 
  • Also, the use of birth control ( oral contraceptives or otherwise). The longer the birth control is used, the longer the protection and even after birth control isn’t used anymore.
  • Removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).

Ovarian cancer is a serious, life-threatening condition and should be treated as such. Therefore, do all the women in your network a favour and share this post on all your social media so that they are also informed.

Click here to see our post on the 7 warning signs of cancer that no one should ignore.

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Till my next post,

Dr Omotola Oke

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