A Less Well-Known Cancer: Ovarian Cancer
Womens Health > A Less Well-Known Cancer: Ovarian Cancer
Like uterine cancer, ovarian cancer is one of the less publicized and less well-known cancers. However, it is important for those who wish to know about women's health concerns to be aware of ovarian cancer.
As the name suggests, ovarian cancer is the cancer of the ovaries. It begins in the ovaries and it is possible for it to spread throughout the body. The main problem with ovarian cancer is the difficulty in detecting it. When detected in its early stages, it is very possible to completely eradicate ovarian cancer. Despite it's relative rarity when compared with other cancers that strike women, the enhanced possibility of late detection makes ovarian cancer an important women's health issue.
Genetics is not the most common cause of ovarian cancer. Most women who do develop ovarian cancer do not have a family history of ovarian cancer (although other cancers in the family history can increase chances of ovarian cancer). Interestingly enough, the mutations that can cause early-onset breast cancer are the same genes that are thought to cause ovarian cancer. It is important, if a woman has a family history of cancer, and especially breast cancer, to be regularly checked for signs of ovarian cancer. History of cancer is a main consideration in any women's health issue that involves cancer of specific female anatomy.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are generally mild, and this is part of the reason this cancer can be considered a serious threat to women's health. Most women who develop ovarian cancer ignore the symptoms because they seem trivial. Some things to watch for include abdominal discomfort, pelvic pain or abdominal swelling without pain, bloating or intestinal gas or a feeling of constipation or inability to have a bowel movement.
Additionally, women who have irregular menstrual cycles, a need to urinate frequently, vaginal bleeding and experience frequent nausea and fever may be displaying symptoms of ovarian cancer. These are all symptoms that can appear from time to time, and so women, and sometimes even women's health providers overlook them. It is important to note if these are symptoms that persist for three weeks or more, or recur regularly.
There are some behaviors that are thought to reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer. Eating a healthy, low-fat diet is one of them, as is avoiding an excess of caloric intake and regular exercise. Oral contraceptives are also thought to help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, as is surgical contraception procedures ("tube tying" and the removal of the ovaries). One full-term pregnancy can reduce the risk, as does breast-feeding.
Nearly all the conventional cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can be used on ovarian cancer. However, it is important to realize that once ovarian cancer progresses beyond the second stage (there are four stages), the likelihood of survival is very slim. First-stage detection results in a nearly 90 percent survival rate.
Because ovarian cancer cannot be detected by pap smear, it provides unique challenges to the field of women's health. Devices to detect ovarian cancer are being developed, and there are ways to screen for this disease. The most important things a woman can do to prevent ovarian cancer are to live healthy, pay attention to her body and develop a good relationship with a physician who is supportive and informed.