Ovarian cancer is a disease where some of the cells in one or both ovaries start to grow abnormally and develop into cancer. Learn the symptoms, the risk factors and how to help those with the disease.
1. The types of ovarian cancer
There are four main types of ovarian cancer, and these are named after the type of cells in the ovary where the cancer begins growing:
*Epithelial ovarian cancer begins in the epithelium: the outer cells that cover the ovary. This is the most common type of ovarian cancer, accounting for about 90% of cases.
*Borderline tumours are a group of epithelial tumours which are not as aggressive as other epithelial tumours. Borderline tumours may also be called 'low malignant potential' or LMP tumours. The outlook for women with borderline tumours is generally good regardless of whether the disease is diagnosed early or late.
*Germ cell ovarian cancer begins in the cells that mature into eggs. These tumours account for about 5% of ovarian cancers and usually affect women under 30 years.
*Sex-cord stromal cell ovarian cancer begins in the ovary cells that release female hormones. These tumours account for about 5% of ovarian cancers and can affect women of any age.
Both germ cell and sex-cord stromal cell ovarian cancers respond well to treatment and are often curable. If either of these cancers affect only one ovary, it may be possible for younger women to have children after treatment.
2. Symptoms of ovarian cancer
It's important for women to learn the symptoms of ovarian cancer. The four types of symptoms most frequently reported are:
1. Abdominal or pelvic pain;
2. Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating;
3. Needing to urinate often or urgently; and
4. Feeling full after eating a small amount.
Whilst women may experience these symptoms from time to time, if these symptoms are new and persist for two weeks or more, consult a doctor to find out the cause.
3. The genetic risks of ovarian cancer
At least 15% of epithelial ovarian cancers are thought to be the result of inheriting a faulty gene from either your mother's or father's side of the family. Many women who have ovarian cancer or who have a relative with ovarian cancer are eager to find out if the cancer may be hereditary.
If you are concerned about your family history of cancer and the possibility of having inherited a genetic fault, ask your doctor to refer you to a family or familial cancer clinic, located in most major public hospitals throughout Australia.
4. How to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer
Risk factors for ovarian cancer
*Age is the main risk factor for ovarian cancer.
*Being a white (Caucasian) woman living in a westernised country with a high standard of living.
*Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
*Having no or few full-term pregnancies.
*Never taking oral contraceptives.
*Eating a high fat diet, or being overweight or obese.
*Taking oral contraceptives.
*Removal of your uterus.
*Removal of your ovaries.
*Having your fallopian tubes tied.
5. How to support ovarian cancer research
Throughout February, Ovarian Cancer Australia invites the community to host an 'Afternoon Teal™' with friends and family or work colleagues to help spread awareness about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer as well as raising vital funds for research and support.
This article first appeared on Women's Health
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