Ovarian cancer: what you need to know

Credits: iStock
Ovarian cancer: what you need to know
4 (80%) 2 votes

Be aware that in the early stages, ovarian cancer does not necessarily manifest with specific symptoms, which is why it is important to prevent risk factors and to regularly consult your gynaecologist. Ovarian cancer is a chronic and fatal illness which develops when the ovarian cells multiply uncontrollably.  

Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose due to the absence of obvious symptoms at the early stages. The more it evolves, the more the symptoms emerge:

  • abdominal inflammation
  • pelvic pain
  • indigestion
  • frequent urinary urges
  • fatigue
  • sudden dramatic weight loss

2) What are the risk factors?

The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases depending on certain factors:

  • family history: the mutation of specific genes can lead to abnormal cell development
  • being over 50 years of age
  • taking certain medications or treatments, particularly for fertilisation
  • hormonal changes
  • excessive smoking or consumption of alcohol
  • obesity

3) A “silent killer” that can affect any woman

The majority of women who reach the age of 50 could one day be exposed to this illness. But this cancer is referred to as a “silent killer”, because it is characterised by the absence of symptoms during the early stages of development.

This is why diagnosing this illness is very difficult.

Generally during the menopause, but also at younger ages, hormonal changes increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Every year, 140,000 women worldwide die from this illness, and there are 250,000 new cases diagnosed. Make regular appointments with your gynaecologist, around once every year to two years, in order to arrange a check-up.

In the majority of cases, the cancer is detected too late, and has had the time to spread to other parts of the body.

4) An average life expectancy of 5 years

This life expectancy varies depending on:

  • the stage of development of the tumour
  • the age of the patient when they are diagnosed

46% of women affected by ovarian cancer have a life expectancy of at least 5 years after diagnosis. 

5) With early diagnosis, there is a 90% chance of cure

When ovarian cancer is diagnosed in the first stages of development, the patients have up to a 90% chance of recovery, thanks to effective and less aggressive treatments. 

This is why it is very important to consult your doctor or gynaecologist at the slightest doubt about any of the symptoms listed above. 

6) Can it be detected with a smear test?

No, a smear test does not detect ovarian cancer, even though it is important to go for a smear test every three years to screen for cervical cancer. A smear test can detect changes in the cells in the cervix.

But the test that checks for ovarian cancer involves a pelvic exam and a blood test. 


Related articles: 

40% of cancers could be avoided: here’s how

What are the symptoms and risk factors for bowel cancer

Breast cancer: 12 symptoms to be aware of