Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, which are located on either side of the uterus and are responsible for producing eggs and hormones. There are three main types of ovarian cancer: epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell ovarian cancer and stromal ovarian cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type and starts in the tissue that covers the ovaries. Germ cell ovarian cancer begins in the cells that produce eggs, while stromal ovarian cancer begins in the cells that produce hormones.

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What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be vague and similar to other conditions, making it difficult to detect. Common symptoms include abdominal swelling or bloating, pelvic pain, back pain, indigestion or nausea, frequent urination and changes in bowel habits. Women who experience these symptoms should talk to their healthcare provider to determine the cause of their symptoms and whether further testing is needed. Because this type of cancer is hard to detect in its early stages, it’s essential for women to undergo regular screenings to detect any potential issues early on.

Who is at risk for ovarian cancer?

Several factors can increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. These include age, family history of ovarian or breast cancer, the presence of certain genetic mutations, personal health history, use of fertility treatments and hormone replacement therapy. Women who have never been pregnant and those who have endometriosis or a history of ovarian cysts may also be at higher risk.

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosing ovarian cancer can be challenging because the symptoms are vague, and there’s no single test that can definitively detect the disease. However, healthcare providers can use a combination of methods including a pelvic exam, blood tests to check for certain proteins that may be elevated in women with ovarian cancer and imaging tests such as ultrasounds or CT scans for early detection. If these tests suggest cancer may be present, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Can ovarian cancer be prevented?

There’s no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer, but there are steps women can take to reduce their risk of developing the disease. These include:

  • Taking birth control pills.
  • Having a hysterectomy, which involves removing the uterus and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, as obesity is a risk factor for ovarian cancer.
  • Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, as these habits can reduce the risk of many types of cancer.
  • Talking to a healthcare provider about genetic testing if there is a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.

It’s important to speak to a doctor for recommendations and advice specific to your health.

How does genetics play a role in ovarian cancer?

Genetics plays a significant role in ovarian cancer, as women with certain genetic mutations can be at a higher risk of developing the disease. These mutations are inherited and can be passed down from either the mother or father. Women who have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer may benefit from genetic counselling and testing to determine their risk and discuss options for risk reduction. Genetic testing can also be helpful for women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, as it can help guide treatment decisions and inform their family members about their own risk.

Speak to a Healthcare Professional

If you’re concerned about your risk of ovarian cancer or have experienced symptoms, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional. They can provide you with information about screening options, genetic testing and other risk reduction strategies.

At Eli Waters Medical Centre, our healthcare providers are experienced in women’s health and can provide you with the guidance and support you need to maintain optimal health. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us to discuss any concerns or questions you may have about ovarian cancer or your overall health. We’re here to support you on your health journey.