Ovarian cancer, a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries that produce egg cells, is said to be the most common in older women. It is also the fifth leading cause of deaths among women. In India, data suggest that ovarian, cervical, breast and uterine cancer account for more than 70 per cent of cancer deaths in women.
On average, a woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is under 2 per cent, as per the American Cancer Society (ACS). Doctors don’t yet know exactly what causes ovarian cancer but it is believed that there are certain factors that play a role in the development and prevention of the disease. There are different types of ovarian cancer – which are classified based on the cells they arise from. The main forms of treatment for ovarian cancer are surgery and chemotherapy.
What causes ovarian cancer?
Generally, mutations (changes) in DNA can lead to the development of cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, the mutations encourages the cell to grow and multiply quickly, creating a mass of abnormal cells that can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumour to spread elsewhere in the body.
Other factors that may increase a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer include:
Age – being over 50 years of age
A family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer
Inherited genetic mutations
Being overweight or obese
Late pregnancy or never having a full-term pregnancy
Using fertility treatment such as IVF
Taking hormone therapy after menopause
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer rarely causes symptoms in the initial stages, hence, the condition often goes undiagnosed until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. Common signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include –
A swollen tummy
Feeling full quickly when eating
Changes in bowel habits – such as constipation
Discomfort in tummy or pelvis area
A frequent urge to pee
These symptoms are very similar to those of some common conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hence, they are often ignored. But, it’s always safer to check with your doctor if you notice any symptoms or changes that concern you.
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