Understand Ovarian Cancer Symptoms for early detection
Ovarian cancer, like most cancers, is a topic we try to avoid speaking about. This is because understandably we are scared and would rather not prepare ourselves for a situation we hope will never happen.
However, If ovarian cancer is not diagnosed early enough then the cancer cells can spread in the abdomen and pelvis.
Unlike other types of gynaecological cancers, the symptoms for ovarian cancer can be non-specific and difficult to recognise in the early stages, which is why it is unfortunately diagnosed late.
This article is aim to provide you with everything it is important to know and do in order to detect it early, treat it and beat it.
Ovarian cancer symptoms
Ovarian Cancer arises from abnormal cells growing in and around the ovary . There are many different types of ovarian tumours classified by the types of cells and tissue they originate from. Some ovarian tumours are benign while others are more serious (cancer).
Ovarian cancer symptoms include:
feeling constantly bloated
a swollen tummy, discomfort in the tummy or pressure in pelvic area or back
changes in bowel movements
loss of appetite or feeling full quite quickly and needing to urinate more often than normal.
Urinary symptoms – urgency / frequency
Unexplained weight loss
These are surprisingly non-specific symptoms with an unusual emphasis on the gastrointestinal system but there are also more unusual generalised symptoms such as low energy, fatigue and weight loss.
Type of Ovarian Cancers
Ovarian tumours tend to develop from three kinds of tissue:
Approximately 90% come from epithelial cells which form the surface layer covering the ovaries. Epithelial cell tumours (sometimes referred to as carcinomas) normally occur in women older than 50 years.
Around 5% come from the stromal cells which produce and release hormones. Stromal cell tumours may appear in a woman of any age however certain tumours may be more common in adolescence. Granulosa cell tumours are an example of stromal cancer.
Another 5% from the germ cells. Germ cells are the cells in the ovary that develop into eggs. Germ cell tumours usually occur in younger women.
There are some even more rare forms of Ovarian Cancer, such as sarcomas which come from the connective tissue which is the supporting tissue within the ovary.
Ovarian Cancer screening
Ovarian Cancer screening
If you experience any of the above symptoms you must see you GP or Gynaecologist immediately who will refer you to a fast track clinic (where you will be reviewed by a gynaecologist within 2 weeks).
A Gynaecologist can review your full medical history, including any relevant family history, to assess the risk of you developing ovarian cancer. A family history of ovarian cancer can put you at an increased risk of getting ovarian cancer. A physical pelvic examination backed by ultrasound will rule out any masses or other gynaecological conditions like fibroids, endometriosis or polyps. A blood test for a known ovarian cancer tumour marker called CA125 along with the ultrasound scan is part of the ovarian screening test.
CA 125 a blood protein can be significantly elevated in the presence of ovarian cancer. However, borderline raised levels of CA:125 can also indicate other diseases or conditions such as endometriosis, pancreatitis and inflammatory pelvic disease and so your gynaecologist will interpret the results in conjunction with your medical history, family history, examination and ultrasound scan results.
The transvaginal ultrasound scan involves the introduction of a probe gently placed in the vagina. Clear Images on a monitor will show the structure of the womb, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and surrounding organs. By this means any cysts or growths can be found, measured and their probable nature indicated. The sonographer will be able to determine if any cyst, polyp or growth is fluid, air or solid matter and whether it has a blood supply which will help determine its nature and if benign like fibroids or dermoid cysts or more serious like cancer
What are the causes of ovarian cancer?
- Being over the age of 50 -`8/10 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over 50 although some rare types of ovarian cancer can happen in younger women
- having a family history of ovarian or breast cancer
- Other factors that have been reported to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are obesity, smoking, HRT, endometriosis
Is ovarian cancer hereditary?
Yes. This is particularly important if a close relative has had cancer like a mother or sister. Sometimes this can because of an inherited faulty gene called BRCA1 or BRCA2. However, only 1 in every 10 ovarian cancers is caused by one of these genes.
You can have genetic testing for these genes if you have a family history.
Prevent and beat the ovarian cancer by understanding symptoms
Ovarian cancer is the 6th most common cancer in women and in the UK about 7500 women per year are diagnosed. Be able to know you are high-risk by doing genetic testing, be particularly careful of your symptoms and attending regular screening help you to prevent and beat this gynaecological cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a survival cancer if detected at its early stage.
With you at every step on the way
Whether you simply wish to discuss genetic screening for BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, have a routine ovarian cancer screen ( consultation, scan and blood test) or you have symptoms that need further investigation for peace of mind, you can contact us.
Our friendly team can allay any concerns and ensure you are seen promptly by a specialist where an individualised risk assessment can take place, full assessment and advice given about the frequency of future screening. In the unlikely event there is any detection of suspected ovarian cancer than further diagnostic, staging and treatment options will ensue within specialist multidisciplinary cancer team.