You may have seen us posting about ‘Walk all over Cancer’ as the Month of March is used by charities to encourage people to take more steps. Taking more steps will help us live healthier lives and reduce our risk of cancer.
March is also Ovarian Cancer Month. Ovarian Cancer is a type of Cancer which is frequently missed in the early stages and hence It's an important one to discuss and educate about.
Ovarian Cancer affects the ovaries. The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system and they are responsible for the producing, storing and releasing eggs for reproduction. Cancer is caused by abnormal cells which reproduce at a fast rate and form tumours. These tumours can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
If a tumour is left untreated and left to grow it can spread to other areas of the body. It will first start to spread to the surrounding areas such as womb, bladder and bowel and then progress to the abdominal area. If left untreated it can then go on to spread to areas such as the liver, lungs and brain.
Around 90% of all diagnosed ovarian cancer is epithelial ovarian cancer. The cancer cells are in the lining of the ovaries. The other types are less common and involve tumours derived from the cells that produce eggs (Germ cell cancer) and from the connective tissue within the ovaries (cord-stromal cell cancer)
There are four different stages of ovarian cancer. Stage 1 involves one or both pf the ovaries, stage 2 involves growth that extends into the pelvic region, stage 3 involves extension into the abdomen or lymph nodes and stage 4 shows evidence of metastatic disease.
Ovarian Cancer is frequently diagnosed late due to the presentation of symptoms are very similar to those of IBS. They include frequent bloating, loss of appetite and feeling full quickly, pain in abdomen and pelvic region that does not go away and increased frequency of needing to pee.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases from the age of 45 and onwards, being the highest in the age bracket of 75-79 years. 5-15% of ovarian cancers are linked to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. The BRCA1/BRCA2 genes are genes that work to suppress tumour development. A fault with the gene is inherited and has been linked to the development of ovarian and/or breast cancer. For women who have has a sister or mother diagnosed with ovarian cancer they are 3 times more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those without a direct family history. Other risk factors include having had breast cancer before or bowl cancer at a young age. Furthermore, smoking, exposure to asbestos, being on hormone replacement treatment and a diagnosis of endometriosis and diabetes can increase the risk.
It’s always worth getting checked out if a number of symptoms apply to yourself and especially if there is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.