Cancer is a disease long dreaded but greater awareness and modern medicine have shown we can lower our chances of it setting in and even if diagnosed with it, early detection and lifestyle changes can help us manage it. Of the many cancers known, ovarian cancer is a cancerous growth arising from the ovary. Symptoms are frequently very subtle early on and may include bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating and frequent urination, which are easily confused with other illnesses. “While there is no available screening for early detection of ovarian cancer, there are tests available for high risk women and those who display symptoms,” says Dr Shekar Patil, MD, DM, medical oncologist while speaking to City Express.
WHAT IS IT
Ovarian cancer occurs when malignant cells are found in the tissue of a female’s ovary. Ovarian cancer is associated with age and family history of ovarian cancer. Treatment of cancer is a long-drawn process with several stages. Indian women are among the last ones to visit the doctor when it comes to their own health. This coupled with lack of awareness has been the major driver for ovarian cancer cases to increase. Since the condition usually occurs during menopause, most women ignore the symptoms, and further delay the treatment process. Anything out of the ordinary should be checked by a trained physician and treated accordingly. Although experts have not been able to identify what causes ovarian cancer, there are some factors that may put one person at a higher risk of developing the condition:
Family history: Women who have one or more family members who have suffered from ovarian cancer, breast cancer or colon cancer are at a greater risk of developing the condition. Experts have found that specific genes such as BRCA 1 and 2 - if inherited - can cause the condition.
Age: Women over the age of 45 are more likely when compared to their younger counterparts to develop ovarian cancer. The risk doubles in women above the age of 60.
Childbearing and Menstruation: Studies have found that women who have never given birth are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who have children. The study also suggested that the number of children a woman has directly correlates to the decrease in risk of ovarian cancer. Those women who reach puberty early (before age 12), have no children or had their first child after the age of 30, and experience menopause after 50 have a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer than others. Oral contraceptives and hormonal therapy: While women who use oral contraceptives are less likely to develop ovarian cancer, women who have had hormonal therapy after menopause are at a greater risk of contracting the condition.
Obesity: An overweight or obese woman is more likely to develop ovarian cancer than her healthy counterparts.
Bloating, pelvic pain, back pain, constipation, tiredness and a range of other non-specific symptoms, as well as more specific symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or involuntary weight loss are among the symptoms. There can be a build-up of fluid (ascites) in the abdominal cavity. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are frequently absent early on and when they exist they may be subtle. In most cases, the symptoms persist for several months before being recognised and diagnosed. It is usually detected late and the prognosis is usually bad.
TO TREAT IT
The main treatments for ovarian cancer are
Surgery: This is when the gynaecologic oncologist surgically removes the ovary and other tissues that may be affected by the cancer.
Chemotherapy: The oncologist uses drugs to kill the cancer cells and radiation therapy. This treatment involves the use of high energy ionizing radiation to kill the cancer cells. In some cases two or even all of these treatments will be recommended.
How much surgery is required depends on if the cancer has spread. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective. One word that is even more daunting than the death itself and eats up a person from the inside is cancer.
Every year, about 8,00,000 new cancer patients get registered with the National Cancer Registry Programme in India. This shows that cancer is one of the major health problems in India at present. Lung and oral cancer are the most common types of cancers among men, where as cervical and breast cancer among women in India.
Ovarian cancer has emerged as one of the most common malignancies affecting women in India. The present communication reports the trends in the incidence rate of ovarian cancer for Indian women.
Ovarian cancer is often termed a “Silent Killer” because its symptoms do not cause alarm amongst the women till it has already reached an advanced stage. Early detection of ovarian cancer offers a 90 per cent cure rate.
Sadly, a lack of symptoms from this silent disease means that about 75 per cent of ovarian cancer cases will have spread to the abdomen by the time they are detected.