Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women in the world. However, unlike breast and cervical cancers, there is currently no routine screening process to detect the disease that is often overlooked and misunderstood.
Since 2013, May 8 is World Ovarian Cancer Day. Each year, the World Coalition for Ovarian Cancer partners with hundreds of organizations to raise awareness around the world about the fight against ovarian cancer.
According to Vancouver General Hospital and the University of British Columbia Hospital Foundation, more than 3,100 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in Canada.
As cases are expected to increase in the coming years, experts say it is important for all women to be aware of the signs and symptoms.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a group of diseases that originate in the ovaries, or in the related areas of the fallopian tubes and peritoneum, which is the membrane that covers the abdominal cavity.
The ovaries are oval-shaped glands on either side of the uterus that produce eggs for female reproduction, as well as the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
It is estimated that there are over 30 different types of ovarian cancer, which is the deadliest of female cancers.
What are the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be vague, meaning they can often be confused with less serious illnesses.
Dr. Rebecca Stone, Associate Professor of Gynecological Oncology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Md., Explains Yahoo Canada that when people with ovarian cancer are diagnosed, it is likely that their disease has advanced to stage three or four.
According to Stone’s estimate, approximately 85 percent of diagnosed cases are third- or four-stage cancer, meaning that the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, the abdomen. liver and surrounding lymph nodes.
Some common symptoms include:
Who is at risk for ovarian cancer?
There are several factors that increase a woman’s chances of developing epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common type of ovarian cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is rare in women under the age of 40 and usually develops after menopause.
Giving birth for the first time after the age of 35 and never having a full-term pregnancy can also contribute to the development of ovarian cancer.
These risk factors do not apply to the less common types of ovarian cancer, including germ cell tumors and stromal tumors.
Having a family history of ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer and colorectal cancer increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
Stone says many women may have a misconception that because they have a pelvic exam once a year or a Pap smear test, they are also having an ovarian cancer test, but this is not the case. . There is no early detection of ovarian cancer.
If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer at a young age, or several generations of colon, pancreatic, or prostate cancer, Stone says you should talk to your doctor about your eligibility for counseling. and genetic testing.
“It’s effectively the only type of‘ screening test ’we have available is the detection of women who may be at increased genetic risk for ovarian cancer,” says Stone.
While only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are inherited, Stone says knowing your family history is a good way to identify any risks from the start and start with “risk reduction strategies.”
“One of them is surgery, the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries when women have just had children, maybe one day only the fallopian tubes if we are right about our theory that most of that [ovarian cancer] it comes from the fallopian tubes and not the ovary and these studies are ongoing, ”he explains.
Aside from genetic testing, a transvaginal ultrasound and a biopsy can also help in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
Is the HPV vaccine effective with ovarian cancer?
Studies have confirmed that the HPV vaccine can help prevent cervical cancer, but Stone says it doesn’t protect you from ovarian cancer.
“Ovarian cancer, as far as we know, is not driven by HPV like cervical cancer, “he added.
How can the risk of ovarian cancer be reduced?
Ovarian cancer cannot be prevented, but there are ways to reduce the risk of being diagnosed. You may be less likely to develop ovarian cancer if you have used birth control for five years or more, if your fallopian tubes have been tied, if your ovaries have been removed, or if you have had a hysterectomy and have given birth. or you are breastfed.
If you are looking to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, we recommend that you talk to your doctor first.
How is ovarian cancer treated?
The sooner it is detected, the more likely it is that ovarian cancer treatment will be successful.
Once there is a diagnosis, a doctor can come up with a treatment plan that depends on several things, such as the stage of the cancer, the type of tumor it is, and whether the patient wants to get pregnant in the future.
The most common types of treatment for ovarian cancer include a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
New research shows promising prevention of ovarian cancer
Stone says Yahoo Canada that research on ovarian cancer is ongoing and science is changing. There has been a lot of data accumulated over the last 10-20 years regarding the prevention of ovarian cancer.
Doctors previously believed that removing the ovaries was one of the best ways to prevent ovarian cancer, but Stone says new research shows that removing the fallopian tubes may be more beneficial.
In February 2022, scientists in British Columbia published new data on a procedure called opportunistic salpingectomy (OS). This procedure includes the removal of the fallopian tubes when a person is already undergoing routine gynecological surgery such as a hysterectomy or the fallopian tubes and ovaries are tied intact.
“This has an incredible impact because we now have the first sign that we could really do something that doesn’t really affect the function of the ovaries or the appearance of someone or the quality of life,” Stone says. “We could actually seriously reduce the number of these lethal cancer cases by doing something very simple.”