BENGALURU : Ovarian cancer is the third most common gynaecological cancer in Indian women, the most common being breast cancer followed by cervical cancer.
The incidence of ovarian cancer is between 5.4 – 8/1,00,000.The risk starts increasing from age 35 and reaches a peak between the ages of 55 – 64. It has the worst prognosis amongst gynaecological cancers, with a five-year survival rate of 45 per cent. This is primarily because most often it is diagnosed in Stage III or IV. The high mortality rates arise because of alack of definite symptoms related to early-stage disease. There are no effective screening strategies because the exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer
■ The risk is increased in women who have never been pregnant.
■ An early menarche and late menopause may also increase the risk.
■ A family history of ovarian cancer especially in aIst degree relative increases the risk of ovarian cancer
■ Carriers of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations have a higher risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.
■ Families with LYNCH II syndrome are also at high risk of developing ovarian cancer.
■ Women with a history of breast cancer have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
■ Post-menopausal hormone therapy is associated with an increased risk in the long term.
■ Although studies of the relationship between diabetes and ovarian cancer have in the past yielded inconsistent results, several studies in recent times have shown that there is an association between diabetes and an increased incidence of ovarian cancer.
Diabetes affects more than 72 million Indians. World over, diabetes affects 199 million women and it affects about 14% of Indian women.
Many studies have suggested that diabetes is associated with an increased risk of cancer in several sites of the body. This association with cancer was noted as early as 1914.
A particularly strong association with endometrial, pancreatic, liver and colon cancers have been demonstrated, although the exact reasons for this are not understood.
The author is director, senior obstetrician and gynaecologist- Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road Bangalore, MBBS, MRCOG (London), FRCOG (London), FACOG (USA)
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Early ovarian cancer may have non-specific or very minimal symptoms. Women may present with:
Bloating and abdominal discomfort
Change in bowel habits
Loss of appetite
In later stages, they may present with:
Increase in abdominal size
Nausea and vomiting
Swelling of the leg due to a deep vein thrombosis
How can I reduce my risk of ovarian cancer?
A full-term pregnancy before the age of 26 years
Birth control pills used for 3 – 6 months or more
Tubal ligation or sterilisation operation
Removal of the Fallopian tubes at hysterectomy
Not using Hormone Replacement Therapy
Maintaining an ideal weight