What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian Cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the ovary and affects the women of reproductive age. It is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer in the United States. The cancer starts in the ovaries as abnormal cells and can spread to other parts of the body.
Causes of Ovarian Cancer
The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known, although there are some factors that can increase one’s risk of developing the disease: age, genetic factors, family history, hormone replacement therapy, and obesity.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle and may suggest other health issues, making it difficult to diagnose. Often, women with ovarian cancer experience a combination of the following signs and symptoms:
- Pelvic pain
- Trouble eating
- Increased abdominal size
- Feeling full quickly
- Changes in bowel habits
- Urinary urgency or frequency
- Unexplained fatigue
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
Treatment for Ovarian Cancer
Treatment for ovarian cancer typically includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Surgery is the most common form of treatment for ovarian cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible, which is referred to as debulking. This can be done through a laparotomy or a laparoscopy.
Chemotherapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells that may remain after surgery. It is typically given as oral or intravenous medications to destroy cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is also used to target areas with cancer cells. This may involve using a scope to insert radiation into the pelvic area, or using external beam radiation to target cancer cells in the body.
Ovarian Cancer Prevention and Health
Though it is not yet possible to prevent ovarian cancer, there are some steps which can be taken to reduce one’s risk:
- Use oral contraception: Using birth control containing both estrogen and progestin for 3 or more years reduces the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, so maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine is important.
- Check your family history: If there is a family history of ovarian cancer, your doctor may screen more frequently or recommend genetic testing.
- Reduce exposure to toxins: Chemicals such as pesticides and solvents may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer, so reducing exposure to these chemicals is important.
The most important thing for overall health is to practice good self-care, including regular check-ups, healthy lifestyle habits, and staying aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so listen to your body and speak with your healthcare provider if something does not seem right.