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Ovary Cancer - Symptoms and Prevention of Cancer in Ovary

Ovary cancer is sometimes called the silent killer, since its early symptoms may be considered too vague to report to a doctor. This means that up to three times in four it has spread beyond the ovary by the time it's discovered, which his why the average five-year survival for all women with ovary cancer is only 30 per cent. However, 95 per cent of women with early ovary cancer do have symptoms, so it's worth all women taking such symptoms seriously, for if treated early enough, around four out of five women are still alive after five years.

Symptoms of Ovary Cancer

The most common symptoms are slight abdominal discomfort (usually low on one side of the tummy, near the umbilicus, or in the groin) and bloating which is easily mistaken for middle-age spread. Other possibilities include fatigue, nausea, indigestion, persistent constipation or diarrhea, weight loss, back pain, pain during sex, increased urination, and vaginal bleeding. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish the symptoms of ovary cancer from those of irritable bowel syndrome. And sometimes the first sign is when the cancer grows so large you can feel it, or it causes fluid retention in the abdomen, or it pushes up against the diaphragm and causes breathlessness.

What are the causes and risk factors of Ovary Cancer

The risk rises with age, with around nine in 10 women being over 45. There are several other risk factors, the most important being a history in your close family - as 5-10 per cent of women with ovary cancer have inherited a damaged BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which makes this cancer more likely. If your mother has had ovary cancer your risk is six times that of the average woman and if your sister has had it your risk is nearly four times the average. If two close relatives have had it, you have a two in five risk of getting it - which is very high, so it's essential to see a gynecologist to discuss screening. Sometimes a high risk of both ovary and breast cancers or of ovary and colon cancers, runs in families.

Prevention of Ovary Cancer

To help prevent ovary cancer you need to lead a healthy lifestyle and take general anti-cancer measures. Aim to minimise controllable risk factors, ensure that you have any recommended screening and always report unexplained symptoms early. Interestingly, research suggests that taking a small dose of aspirin at least three times a week reduces the risk of the commonest type of ovary cancer by about 40 per cent. However, this can't yet be recommended, as there is no proof and aspirin can have side effects.

Tests and investigations of Ovary Cancer

Possibilities, if ovary cancer is suspected, include a physical examination, a transvaginal ultrasound scan, a blood test for CA125 and, perhaps, a laparoscopy.

Medical treatment for Ovary Cancer

Treatment is with surgery to remove the ovaries and, perhaps, the womb and cervix. You may need anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy), other drugs or radio the rapy. The two most effective drugs are carboplatin (a platinum compound) and paclitaxel (from Pacific yew tree bark). Researchers are experimenting with the laser destruction of cancer cells (perhaps after sensitising them with light attracting pigment). If after surgery you are left with one ovary and your womb, you can still have children. However, if you have radiotherapy or surgery to remove one ovary, before 30, your menopause is likely to occur around seven years early and your fertility will probably decline relatively fast before this. So if you want a baby you may not want to wait too long.

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