As with most cancers, ovarian cancer rarely produces symptoms in its earliest stages, however, these warning signs eventually develop –
- vague digestive disturbances, such as mild indigestion, bloating, feeling of fullness, or loss of appetite.
- diarrhoea, constipation, or increased urination.
- pain or swelling in the abdomen, or pain in the lower back.
- vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause.
Symptoms of advanced ovarian cancer include severe nausea, vomiting, pain, and weight loss.
Beside the uterus are the two ovaries, each only the size of an almond, which produce eggs and female hormones. The ovaries may develop abnormal growths such as cysts- these are always benign, as are many ovarian tumours. It can occur at any age, even in childhood, but is most common after menopause.
Like most cancers, ovarian cancer is very rarely detected in its early stages and has to spread significantly before diagnosed. It is imperative that the cancer is detected as early as possible.
It is reported, that most women who suffer from ovarian cancer have no family history of the disease, yet a woman is more susceptible to the disease if her mother or sister has had ovarian, breast, or uterine cancer. Other factors which may increase a woman’s vulnerability to the disease are:-
- not having any or many children,
- delaying having children until the thirties or over
- having trouble conceiving
- a diet of saturated fats – these foods contain oestrogen which allows ovarian cancers to grow faster.
Women who have several children, who breast-feed their infants, or who use birth-control pills are at less of a risk. This may be because these women ovulate less frequently.
Annual pelvic examinations help detect ovarian cancer early.
See Cancer for further information about some of the conventional treatment options below.
Surgery is usually the treatment given for ovarian cancer. Normally, the two ovaries and the other reproductive organs are removed. If the woman is young and has only a small tumour in one ovary, she may have just the diseased ovary removed. The second can be removed later to prevent recurrence.
In many patients, cancer remains after surgery. Most patients receive chemotherapy then, which can prolong survival and may result in cure. Once remission occurs, follow-up examinations are essential.
Creating a healthy immune system is vitally important for all people with cancer. Get plenty of regular exercise, enough sleep, and essential vitamins and minerals by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Cut down on dairy products, meats, and other high-fat foods.
Various herbs with demonstrated immune-enhancing properties may complement standard treatment, but check with your doctor before using them.
Antioxidants have been touted as a possible prevention aid for cancer.
If you are in the high-risk category for ovarian cancer, ask your doctor about current recommendations for routine blood screening. For women at extremely high risk, a doctor may recommend having the ovaries removed to prevent the diseases.
When to seek further professional advice
- you have unexplained abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, especially if these occur with the more general symptoms listed in the description section. Do not allow such symptoms to continue undiagnosed for more than two weeks.