Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day.
Every year, 1200-1400 Australian women are diagnosed with this disease and sadly 800-900 women will die.
Worldwide, around 240,000 women face the diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer, each year.
What makes this one particularly difficult to diagnose, is that the symptoms are often vague or attributed to any number of common problems.
The things to look out for include:
- abdominal bloating
- difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- frequent or urgent urination
- back, abdominal or pelvic pain
- constipation or diarrhoea
- menstrual irregularities
- pain during sexual intercourse.
- unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Most women would have experienced symptoms like those from time and time and while it’s unlikely to be because of cancer, if you believe something is wrong, and you’re not getting the response you want from your GP or other health professional, there’s no shame in seeking a second or even third opinion. It’s certainly better to know that you are 100% well, than worry about offending your doctor’s feelings. Take it from us…they’re professionals and can handle it.
Risk factors for Ovarian Cancer can include:
- ageing (risk increases for women over 50)
- family history of ovarian, breast or bowel cancer
- changes in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.
- being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
- early onset of periods (before 12 years) and late menopause
- women who have not had children or had their first child after the age of 35
- never taking oral contraceptives
- using oestrogen only hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment.
So if you have any concerns, see your doctor without delay.
And if you’re helping someone going through treatment or palliative care for Ovarian Cancer, there is a lot you can do. In most cases, the ovaries of the person affected will be removed, which means they’ll experience menopause if their ovaries were still active at the time of removal. That’s a lot to take in for women at any time, but a cancer diagnosis on top of that is very stressful and emotional. A good friend will listen, not minimise their feelings and step in to help get things done. The CanDo app is a tool that can help with that.
Finally, here’s some info on what Garvan are doing to help solve the puzzle of Ovarian Cancer. Working in collaboration with other major research groups (great research is about great collaboration!), they are working on identifying new ways to detect Ovarian Cancer at early stages, when it is most treatable and survivable. Go here to find out more.