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  • Gynaecology
  • 04.05.22

World Ovarian Cancer Day

Helping women around the world recognise the early signs of ovarian cancer 

This Sunday 8th of May is World Ovarian Cancer Day, a day to create global recognition and raise awareness of the signs of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer affecting Australian women, and with one woman dying every eight hours from ovarian cancer in Australia, it makes it the most lethal gynaecological cancer.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour that can occur in either one or both ovaries, and can spread to other areas of the body. There are three types of ovarian cancer: Epithelial, Germ cell and Stromal.

Epithelial – This is the most common type of ovarian cancer and occurs in 90% of cases. This type arises from the cells on the outside of the ovary.

Germ cell – This type counts for approximately 4% of cases and arises from the cells which produce eggs.

Stromal – This is a rare type of ovarian cancer that arises from the supporting tissue within the ovaries.

There are a variety of risk factors for ovarian cancer including:

  • age
  • family history
  • early onset of periods or late menopause
  • women who haven’t had a child before the age of 35
  • changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
  • Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
  • oestrogen only hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment.

Factors to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer include usage of the oral contraceptive pill for a few years, fallopian tube removal or tying, or having children before the age of 35 and breastfeeding.

Ovarian Cancer Day

Early detection of ovarian cancer

Even though ovarian cancer is the most serious gynaecological cancer, believe it or not there is no early detection test. Contrary to what many women believe, a pap smear doesn’t diagnose ovarian cancer.

With early detection, ovarian cancer survival rates improve up to 90%, that’s why early detection of ovarian cancer is vital.

But do you know the warning signs?

Many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be associated with other medical conditions, so to be sure, it’s best to consult your gynaecologist or your GP if you have any concerns.

Ovarian Cancer Warning Signs

Bloating – If it’s a little more difficult to squeeze into your favourite jeans, or you notice bloating in your abdominal area that’s not consistent with your menstrual cycle, you should speak with your GP.

Frequent urination – Needing to urinate often is another sign of ovarian cancer. Frequent urination can also be linked to urinary tract infections, so it’s a good idea to get it checked out.

Abdominal or pelvic pain – Intense or sharp cramping pain in the pelvic or abdominal area can be a sign of ovarian cancer.

Feeling full sooner – A loss of appetite and feeling full sooner is a symptom of ovarian cancer.

Unexplained change in weight – Unexplained weight gain or weight loss is a warning sign of ovarian cancer.

Bleeding in menopause or between periods – Spotting between your nomal periods or during menopause is a sign of ovarian cancer and a reason to get checked by your gynaecologist or GP.

Lower back pain – Pain in the lower back is one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Excessive fatigue – If you are feeling extremely tired it could be a symptom of ovarian cancer.

Changes in bowel habits – The onset of constipation or diarrhoea can be a sign of ovarian cancer.

Painful sex – Experiencing pain during or after sex is a symptom of ovarian cancer.

Diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer your gynaecologist or GP may recommend a variety of scans or test including:

  • blood tests
  • physical examination
  • pelvic ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • colonoscopy

Treatment options should be discussed with your gynaecologist.

At Grace Private, our Gynaecological Oncologist Dr Helen Green specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of women with cancerous and precancerous gynaecological conditions.

Dr Green is also a member of the Australian and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology (ANZGOG) research group and the Australian Society of Gynaecological Oncologists (ASGO).

If you have read the warning signs and are concerned that you are experiencing some of the symptoms for yourself, ‘ask for Grace’ next time you visit your GP for a referral to one of our skilled gynaecologists.

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