Ovarian cancer is a malignant growth of cells in the female reproductive system specifically in the ovaries. This malignant growth goes in most cases undetected until it propagation into the pelvic and abdominal area. When the disease reaches this advanced stage, treatment is very difficult with death as most probable outcome. When in initial stage, there is a high chance of cure, but unfortunately about 3/4 of ovarian cancer cases are an advanced stage at diagnosis.
Causes and risk factors
The causes behind ovarian cancer are not well known. Genetic factors, such as changes in DNA, are a risk factor for some cases. In general, cancer begins when a genetic mutation transform normal cells into abnormal cancer cells. Cancer cells multiply rapidly, forming a mass (tumor).
The main risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- Family history of the disease: Having a mother, sister or daughter had ovarian cancer will increase your risk. And if you have two close relatives with cancer, you will have a higher risk.
- Genetic inheritance: the cancer can be caused by a genetic disorder that is passed from mother to daughter. These changes mainly occur in genes BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, used as markers in genetic testing.
But most women do not have these risk factors. Ovarian cancer appears more often in postmenopausal women. You may be more likely to have this type of cancer if:
- You never had a baby.
- You started your menstrual cycles before age 12 and went through menopause after age 50.
- You are unable to get pregnant.
- You get hormone therapy to treat symptoms of menopause.
- You are administered fertility treatment.
- You smoke.
- You use an intrauterine device.
- You have polycystic ovary syndrome.
Symptoms or signs
The disease seldom causes symptoms in its early stages. However, in some cases, they may appear:
- regular or persistent swelling;
- pain in belly or pelvis;
- difficulty eating or appetite loss quickly feeling full while eating;
- urinary disorders, such as having needs to pee urgently, or unusual frequent need to urinate.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, and this occurs almost daily for more than two or three weeks, schedule a medical appointment.
Other symptoms that affect some women with ovarian cancer include:
- Feeling tired
- Experiencing digestive disorders such as constipation and indigestion
- Experiencing a back pain that worsens
But these symptoms does not necessarily indicate the presence of the tumor
Consult your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that are causing concern. If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, discuss this risk. It is also important to get gynecological exams every year in order to track any problems early.