Ovarian cancer affects thousands of women each year and is one of the more dangerous forms of cancers since it often has few early warning symptoms. The key to defeating this silent killer lies in understanding your own family history, age, and early warning signs that can lead to successful treatment.
The exact cause of ovarian cancer is still unknown with most researchers acknowledging that several factors may be involved in the formation of cancerous cells in the ovaries. The women most at risk are generally older, have a family history of ovarian cancer, may be infertile and have used postmenopausal estrogen replacement treatments. This of course does not rule out women who do not fall into any of these categories, but the overall risk for women who are younger and have no family history is lower.
However, there are factors such as having become pregnant at an early age or having your last child at an older age, generally above 40 that actually lowers the risk of having ovarian cancer along with women who have had their fallopian tubes surgically blocked. Naturally, women who have had hysterectomies with their ovaries removed are not only at zero risk for ovarian cancer, but also have a much lower risk of contracting breast cancer.
In most cases, the cancerous cells form on the outside or surface of the ovary. However, some researchers believe that the fallopian tubes may also be the source from where ovarian cancer forms. Given that the fallopian tubes are extremely close to the ovaries, there are indications that the cells in the tubes may even mimic the cancerous cells forming on the ovaries which help to spread the cancer.
Early symptoms of ovarian cancer are somewhat subtle and often confused with other, less serious conditions.
– Bloating: A common early symptom of ovarian cancer that can easily be confused with a number of other, far less serious conditions.
– Frequent urination: The pressure of the growing cancer affects the bladder which in turn creates the urge to urinate frequently.
– Difficulty eating: Again, the pressure the cancer places on the ovaries and surrounding tissues and organs such as the stomach which creates the false feeling of fullness.
– Pelvic pain: This is a more serious symptom of ovarian cancer and the least likely to be confused with other conditions.
Experiencing any of these four early warning signs of ovarian cancer on a consistent basis for more than two weeks means you need to have this checked out by your physician and undergo testing for ovarian cancer. The usual tests include a physical and pelvic examination, transvaginal ultrasounds and standard blood test to detect the presence of ovarian cancer.
While ovarian cancer is difficult to detect early until it starts spreading to other areas of the body, the best advice for women who want to increase the chances of early detection is to have regular screenings depending on the risk factors appropriate for your age. By increasing screenings and paying attention to the subtle signs of the early stages of ovarian cancer, the chances for successful treatment rise significantly.