Ovarian cancer refers to any cancerous growth that occurs in the ovary. The majority of ovarian cancers arise from the epithelium (outer lining) of the ovary. There are often no symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. In the early stages, ovarian cancer usually has few symptoms; in many cases, there are no symptoms at all.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Patients often attribute their symptoms to other conditions, such as premenstrual syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or a temporary bladder problem.
The main difference between ovarian cancer and other possible disorders is the persistence and gradual worsening of symptoms.
The following are examples of possible early symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Pain in the pelvis
- Pain on the lower side of the body
- Pain in the lower stomach
- Back pain
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Feeling full rapidly when eating
- More frequent and urgent urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
As ovarian cancer progresses, these symptoms are also possible:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If an individual experiences bloating, pressure, or pain in the abdomen or pelvis that persists for more than a few weeks they should see a doctor immediately
Causes of ovarian cancer
Although we know that ovarian cancer, like many other cancers, is caused by cells dividing and multiplying in an unregulated way, nobody completely understands why cancer of the ovary occurs.
However, we know that the following risk factors are linked to a higher chance of developing the disease:
Women with close relatives who have had ovarian cancer, or breast cancer, have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to other women.
Genetic screening can determine whether somebody carries certain genes that are associated with an increased risk.
The majority of ovarian cancers occur in women over 65.
High number of total lifetime ovulations
There is a link between the total number of ovulations during a woman’s life and the risk of ovarian cancer. Four main factors influence the total:
- The more times a woman has become pregnant, the lower her risk is
- Women who have never been on the contraceptive pill have a higher risk
- Women who started their periods at an early age have a higher risk
- Women whose menopause started later than average have a higher risk
Infertility or fertility treatment
Some studies have found a link between infertility treatment and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Nobody knows whether the risk is because of the infertility treatment, infertility itself, or both.
Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
HRT (Hormone replacement therapy)
HRT slightly increases a women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. Experts say that the risk increases the longer the HRT continues, and returns to normal as soon as treatment stops.
Being obese or overweight increases the risk of developing many cancers.
Women who develop endometriosis have an approximately 30 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer compared with other women.