What is Ovarian Cancer?
Every woman has two ovaries that function to release eggs and sex hormones (estrogen). Cancer of ovaries is a deadly condition that targets women in their 50s or 60s. Over 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. this year and approximately 1 in 70 women will develop this cancer over their lifetime- this ratio is significantly less as compared to breast cancer that affects 1 in 8 women over their lifetime. Although rare, it accounts for more deaths than any other tumor of the female reproductive system, as per the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Two things make ovarian cancer difficult to detect. First, ovaries are present deep in the abdomen. Unlike breast, you can’t self-examine your ovaries. Second, ovarian cancer produces no or extremely ambiguous symptoms in its early stages. In most of the cases, the disease has already progressed to its advanced stages by the time definite symptoms appear. Therefore, you must consult a physician, or preferably a gynecologist, if you experience some or most of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained, and rather persistent, pain, bloating or swelling of the abdomen.
- Pain in the pelvic area. This may be followed by a constant urge to urinate.
- Changing bowel habits is also very common.
- Irregularity in menstruation (more or less bleeding, pain before, during or after menses).
- Weight loss despite proper diet.
What are its Risk Factors?
A positive family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Having other cancers, like breast or uterine cancer.
Lifestyle (Obesity, Smoking).
First pregnancy after the age of 35.
Use of drugs (fertility drugs) for long durations
What are its Stages?
Stage 1-2 (initial stages)
These stages involve ovaries or surrounding pelvic structures.
Stage 3-4 (advanced stages)
In the advanced stages, the cancer spreads beyond pelvis to other body parts.