Female reproductive system is made up of vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Ovarian cancer is one of the three common cancers that a female body can develop. Other two types of cancers are cervical cancer (develops in the cervix) and endometrial cancer (develops in the uterus).
A cancer tumour is made up of malignant cells whose DNA became defective on its way while replicating into new cells. These cells have two different properties – they don’t die like normal cells after some days and they multiply rapidly than normal cells do. The tumour may start in one part of the body and as it grows can spread to other parts, killing the body quickly if not treated on time.
Ovarian cancer symptoms
While small, the tumour may not show any symptoms. But as it grows, a woman may see some of the following ovarian cancer symptoms:
- Feeling full even without eating a heavy meal.
- Indigestion and nausea
- Bloated feeling in the belly
- Pain in abdomen, pelvis and lower back.
- Weight Loss
- Change in bowel movements, you may feel constipated.
- You may keep visiting the toilet more frequently to urinate.
Some of the symptoms coincide with other diseases and that’s when your gynaecologist will need you to go over a few tests to determine the exact cause.
Ovarian cancer causes
Not just for ovarian cancer, the cause of many cancers is not known. All the medical community knows that the DNA gets incorrect mutations when getting copied to new cells and the cells become malignant. They don’t die when they should and they reproduce at a faster rate forming large tumours that will eventually spread and kill the body.
However, there are certain risk factors that can lead to development of ovarian cancer and if you fall into any of the risk groups, make sure you get your annual check up thoroughly.
Risk factors include:
- Age – As a woman ages, the odds of developing ovarian cancer goes up. This is surely not true with everyone but that’s what the medical community has observed.
- Heredity– If any of your family members have or had ovarian cancer, the odds of you developing it are higher.
- Genetic changes – Presence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes puts you at higher risk of ovarian cancer.
- Being overweight or obese – Along with several dozen other diseases that obesity can lead to, it puts you at risk of being an ovarian cancer patient.
- Hormone replacement therapy after menopause – If you happen to go for hormone therapy as you were not able to bear with the symptoms, you are putting yourself at risk of developing cancer.
- Endometriosis – a condition when the inner lining of the uterus grows outside of it.
- Menstruation start and stop age – If menstruation starts too soon or ends too late, that may indicate a possibility of developing ovarian cancer
The chances of ovarian cancer go up if you were never pregnant.
Ovarian cancer types
- Epithelial Ovarian Carcinomas – This starts on the outside of the ovary and is the most common type of ovarian cancer.
- Germ Cell Tumours – Cancer starts in the egg cells. They are very uncommon making up only 2% of ovarian cancers. Germ cell tumours can be seen in young girls and women.
- Stromal Cell Tumours. – This one starts in the cells that produce the hormones, estrogen and progesterone. This is also uncommon and makes up only 1% of the ovarian cancer population.
How can you prevent ovarian cancer
- As you age, be in regular touch with your gynaecologist and get your annual check up done without fail.
- If you want to take birth control pills, check with your doctor if they are right for you and if there is a possibility of going non-hormonal to avoid pregnancy.
- Don’t think twice if your doctor tells you that precancerous cells have started developing in your body, start treatment immediately. As long as the cancer is in the beginning stages, it is quicker, safer and easier to remove it.