Ovarian Cancer is more deadly than Breast Cancer but the general public know much less about it. It has the lowest survival rate of all women’s’ cancers and around a quarter of all Australian’s know someone who has been affected. It’s not detected via pap smear as many women assume but it does have symptoms which can lead to early detection.
Now each February Ovarian Cancer Australia holds a national awareness month. They have a series of initiatives which include; Teal Ribbon Day, Afternoon Teal, #MANicure and #colourforacause to name just a few.
One of the easiest ways to support OCA is #colourforacause. Sponsored by Chemmart Pharmacies they are offering manicures throughout February for a gold coin donation. Plus OCA is encouraging everyone (yes guys you too!) to pain their nails teal. To achieve this Chemmart are selling the official colour for a cause nail polish for only $6.99. Every cent raised will go directly to OCA for support programs, education and research.
Now clearly Ovarian Cancer’s signature colour is teal, yeah? That’s pretty easy to remember but there’s way more information OCA wants all women to know.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Basically it’s a disease where some cells in either one or both ovaries begin to grow abnormally. There are four main types.
- Epithelial Ovarian Cancer – This is the most common type but also the most deadly.
- Borderline Tumours – AKA – ‘low malignant potential’ or LMP tumours. It’s not as aggressive as Epithelial Ovarian Cancer and has better outcomes regardless of when it’s detected.
- Germ Cell Ovarian Cancer – Accounting for five percent of cases and generally found in women under 30.
- Sex-cord Stromal Cell Ovarian Cancer – Also accounts for about five percent of cases but can affect women of any age.
Germ cell and Sex-cord Stromal Cell Ovarian Cancers are often curable. Plus post treatment younger women may still be able to have children if only one ovary has been affected.
The problem with symptoms is that they are complaints which women regularly experience. Additionally these symptoms are often a sign of less serious and more common health problems. The four main ones are:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain.
- Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating.
- Needing to urinate frequently or urgently.
- Feeling full after eating small amounts.
Additional symptoms include:
- Change in bowel habits.
- Unexplained weight gain or loss.
- Bleeding in-between periods or post menopause.
- Back pain.
- Indigestion or nausea.
- Excessive fatigue.
- Pain during sexual intercourse or bleeding afterward.
Increased risk factors
As well as lifestyle choices such as smoking, eating fatty foods and being overweight there are several other risk factors.
- Genetics: It’s believed that inherited faulty genes account for at least 15 percent of all types of Ovarian Cancers.
- Family History: When two or more blood relatives have been affected by Ovarian or Ovarian and Breast Cancers.
- Cultural: Female descendants of the Ashkenazi Jewish populations are more likely to carry the faulty gene.
- Age: It’s believed that women over 50 who have experienced menopause have an increased risk. However younger women are not immune.
- Child bearing/contraceptives: It’s possible that if the ovaries do not receive a break from their regular routine such as during pregnancy or avoiding menstruation by using the pill the risk may increase.
- Hormonal factors: Experiencing early puberty (before 12) or late menopause (after 50).
- Endometriosis: When the tissue lining the inside of the uterus is also found on the outside of the womb.
If women are concerned that they are experiencing symptoms they should consult a GP as soon as possible. Initially the GP will likely ask their patient to track symptoms using a symptom diary. If the GP suspects Ovarian Cancer after reviewing the diary, further investigations will be made.
Diagnosis is made via several steps. It’s usually initiated with a blood test and transvaginal ultrasound although other tests may be performed. If these inquiries strongly suggest Ovarian Cancer is present, surgery will be recommended.
Currently, surgery is the only confirmation of Ovarian Cancer.
If you want further information or get involved in any of the fund or awareness raising initiatives please click here for the OCA website.