Ovarian cancer is a serious condition that can be life-threatening, that’s why it is important to learn more about this disease.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer develops when abnormal cells in the ovary start to grow and form a malignant tumor. Women have two ovaries that are located in the lower abdomen on both sides of the uterus. The ovaries are responsible for the production of eggs (ova). They also release the essential female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer usually remains undiagnosed until it spreads further. It can be very hard to treat ovarian cancer at advanced stages. Unfortunately, this disease can be fatal.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth cause of cancer deaths among women in the world. A risk of getting this illness during the lifetime is nearly 1 in 79. This cancer mainly occurs in older women.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Early-staged cancer typically doesn’t show any symptoms, that’s why it is very easy to overlook the warning signs. The symptoms also may be similar to other health conditions. They may include the following:
- abdominal pressure, bloating and pain;
- quickly feeling full when eating;
- unexplained weight loss;
- difficulty eating;
- a frequent need to urinate.
Ovarian cancer can lead to other symptoms, such as:
- changes in bowel habits;
- back pain;
- painful intercourse;
- menstrual irregularities.
You may experience these symptoms for any number of reasons. They don’t necessarily mean that you have ovarian cancer. At the same time, ovarian cancer is best treated when diagnosed early. If you notice new or unusual symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of ovarian cancer. However, there are several factors that elevate the risk of developing it. They include the following:
- Age. Ovarian cancer affects women at any age, but most ovarian cancers develop after menopause.
- Reproductive history. Each full-term pregnancy lowers the risk. Age also plays an important role: women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 35 have a higher risk of this disease. Breastfeeding may reduce the risk even further.
- Obesity. It seems to be that obese women have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
- Estrogen therapy. As it turns out, using estrogens after menopause increases your risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Family history. Ovarian cancer may run in families. Your risk is higher if your female relatives have or have had ovarian cancer. A family history of breast and colorectal cancer is connected with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. It happens because all these cancers can be caused by an inherited mutation in genes.
- Fertility treatment. Some types of fertility treatment may increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer.
What can be done to prevent ovarian cancer?
There are no proven ways to eliminate your risk of developing ovarian cancer. But some factors are linked to the reduced risk:
- taking oral birth control pills;
- previous pregnancy;
- daily intake of aspirin.
If you think that you have a risk of developing ovarian cancer, visit your doctor to check your pelvic health.
This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.