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Can Ovarian Cancer Be Prevented?

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Ovarian Cancer

Can Ovarian Cancer Be Prevented?

Dr. Meenu Walia
Director-Medical Oncology & Haematology
Cancer Care / Oncology, Medical Oncology

The most common symptoms were abdominal symptoms such as fullness and pain, which are seen in approximately 50% of patients. Moreover certain types of ovarian cancers like germ cell cancers occur in young girls. So, one should not ignore the symptoms, even if age is less.

A cancer that originates at some other site and then spreads to ovaries is not considered as primary ovarian cancer. It is actually an abnormal growth of cells that begins in the ovaries (women reproductive glands that produce ova).

What causes Ovarian Cancer?

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown; however, the following facts may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Below mentioned can be a few factors:

  • Not bearing child or first child after the age of 30 or unexplained infertility
  •  Early start of menstruation and late start of menopause
  • Increasing age. Most often develops after menopause, though it can occur at any age
  • Usage of hormone or hormone replacement therapy
  •  Family history of ovarian cancer/ breast cancer/ rectum or uterine cancer

Testing of the Inherited Gene Mutations

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, it is advisable to speak to your doctor about its risk. In some cases your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor to discuss testing for certain gene mutations that can increase your risk of having ovarian cancers.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

If these symptoms persist or get worse, it is important that you visit your doctor for cancer screening. The symptoms include:

  • Pain on the lower side of the abdomen/backache
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • More frequent and urgent urination
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full

How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

Following tests are done to diagnose ovarian cancer:

- Pelvic exam coupled with ultrasound examination.

- Blood test for cancer related markers. Many women with ovarian cancer have abnormally high level of CA 125 in their blood. However, a number of non-cancerous conditions also elevate CA 125 levels, and many women with early stage ovarian cancer have normal CA 125 levels. For this reason, a CA 125 test isn't usually used to diagnose or to screen for ovarian cancer, but it may be used after diagnosis to monitor how your treatment is progressing.

- Some germ cell cancers can cause elevated blood levels of the other tumor maRkers like Human Chorionic Gonadotropic (HCG), Alpha-Fetoprotine (AFP), and/or Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH). These may be checked, if your doctor suspects that your ovarian tumor could be a germ cell tumor.

- Some ovarian stromal tumors cause the blood levels of a substance called Inhibin and hormones such as Estrogen and Testosterone to go up. These levels may be checked, if your doctor suspects that you have this type of tumor.

- Biopsy is usually done by an Oncologist. The doctor takes a sample of the suspected ovary and the stage of presence of the condition is then analyzed by a pathologist.

What are the possible options of controlling ovarian cancer?

There is no way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, following facts may lower the chances of getting ovarian cancer:

  • Use of birth control pills
  • Having had a tube ligation, both ovaries removed or hysterectomy (an operation in which the uterus and sometimes, the cervix is removed)
  • Having given birth

How can you staging Ovarian Cancer?

Doctors use the result of your surgery to help determine the extent or stage of your cancer. Your doctor may also use information from imaging tests, such as Computerized Tomography (CT)/PET-Scan. Your cancer's stage helps determine your prognosis and your treatment options.

Is Ovarian Cancer Treatable?

Ovarian cancer is very much treatable and earlier the detection better is the outcome. There are mainly 3 types of treatment options for ovarian cancer and they may be used in combination:

Surgery: This is when the oncologist surgically removes the ovary and other tissues that may be affected by the cancer.

Chemotherapy: The oncologist uses drugs to kill the cancer cells.

Radiation Treatment: This treatment involves the use of high energy ionizing radiation to kill the cancer cells.

As per the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, Australia, “ovarian cancer” is not a silent killer. The study says that 830 per 1000 women have had at least one symptom of ovarian cancer for more than a year prior to their diagnosis. It was also found that 170/0 of women waited more than three months after the onset of their symptoms before visiting their doctor, with 80/o waiting more than six months.