Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is all about prevention, as well as providing support to patients and families.
February is Ovarian Awareness month
As there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, all women need to be aware of the symptoms. Around 1,550 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia each year, with more than two-thirds at an advanced stage when diagnosed.
The most commonly reported symptoms for ovarian cancer are:
• Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
• Abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain
• Feeling full after eating a small amount
• Needing to urinate often or urgently
Women’s partners are encouraged to look out for these symptoms also. Additional Symptoms include:
• Changes in bowel habits
• Unexplained weight gain or loss
• Excessive fatigue
• Lower back pain
• Indigestion or nausea
• Bleeding after menopause or in-between periods
• Pain during sex or bleeding after
An important reminder with the symptoms listed above, is that many of these symptoms can also be caused by less serious medical conditions, however, if these do become persistent you should consult your GP.
Understanding the Risks
There is currently no exact cause of ovarian cancer, however, there are risks that have the potential to increase a woman’s chances of developing ovarian cancer.
The two main factors are:
• Increasing Age
• Hereditary Factors
Ageing is the number one risk factor for developing ovarian cancer with the average age of diagnosis at 64 years old. Ovarian cancer can occur at any age but is much more likely in older women who have been through menopause.
• Hereditary factors account for 20% of ovarian cancer cases
• Inheriting a faulty gene such as a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a higher incidence of BRCA mutations than the general population
• Having a strong family history of ovarian, breast or some other cancers (colorectal or endometrial).
There are also a number of other factors that have the potential to increase your risk of ovarian cancer, these include:
• Having endometriosis, a previous breast cancer or diabetes
• Use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (this applies to some ovarian cancer types)
• Being overweight
• Smoking, which may slightly increase the risk of developing
• Mucinous ovarian cancer
• Not having had children – women who have not had children are at a slightly higher risk.
Reducing your risk
There are ways to reduce your risk from developing ovarian cancer.
• Surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes
• Having children
• Using oral contraceptives.
It is important to note that many women who do take precautionary steps to reduce their risk may still develop ovarian cancer.
Information and statistics sourced from https://ovariancancer.net.au/