It’s September, which means National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month is upon us once again. Ranking as the fifth most common cancer among women, spreading awareness is crucial to ensure early detection.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer, as the name suggests, is cancer in your ovaries. Located within the female reproductive system, ovaries are the primary reproductive organs and produce estrogen and progesterone hormones.
Types of ovarian cancer
Depending on the type of cancer and how far along it is, it can be found inside, near or on the outside of the ovaries. There are three main types of ovarian cancer that can be found, each named after the cell they come from.
- Surface Epithelial Cell: Forming part of the outer lining of the ovaries, Epithelial tumors are the most common form of ovarian cancer and accounts for 85-90% of diagnoses.
- Germ Cell: A rare form of ovarian cancer, this cell produces the eggs inside the ovaries. Upon early detection, 90% of patients can be cured with their fertility preserved.
- Stromal Cell: In charge of releasing hormones and holding the ovary together, finding cancer in the stromal cell is extremely rare. Considered a ‘low-grade’ cancer, the cell is hard to detect under a microscope and tends to spread and grow at a slower pace than high-grade cancer cells.
Symptoms & Risk Factors
Looking out for signs can be challenging, as they are often vague in the early stages and are often dismissed or misdiagnosed. With 1 in 78 women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, it is vital to make sure that women are aware and attentive to possible symptoms.
Some indicators include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sex
- Feeling full quickly when eating
To date, unfortunately, no clear causes have been linked to ovarian cancer. However, researchers have established that the following factors increase your chances of developing it:
- Family history of cancer (breast, ovarian, uterine or colon)
- Age (developing after menopause in most cases)
Upon early detection, patients with ovarian cancer have a 90% chance of survival rate. But because it can go undetected for so long, it has often spread to the pelvic and surrounding areas by the time it is found, making treatment challenging.
The only way to confirm a diagnosis is through a biopsy. Although there is no 100% reliable test to detect ovarian cancer, the following tests can indicate if you will need that biopsy:
- Blood tests
- Pelvic exam
- Transvaginal ultrasound
Treatments for ovarian cancer are limited upon a late discovery and can often lead to the removal of the ovaries and other reproductive organs.
Raise awareness today!
Since this cancer doesn’t get as much press as others, this month is a great chance to shed light on risk factors and possible symptoms.
Organizations such as the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), hold fun events for friends and families to get together while raising money and awareness.
Now that you’ve learned more about ovarian cancer, don’t keep the information to yourself. Awareness is key and can help save a life.
Early testing with Metro OBGYN
It might seem daunting, but with regular check-ups, you can increase your chances of early detection. Since ovarian cancer is not easily diagnosed, consult your doctor if you recognize any of the symptoms.