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Guide to Ovarian Cancer: Causes & Signs

The NHS state that ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers in those with a female reproductive system. Ovacome report that there are about 7000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year in the UK. ⁠

Although ovarian cancer can occur at any age, it mostly occurs after menopause. However, ovarian cancer can affect younger people with ovaries too. Smear tests do not detect ovarian cancer.⁠

There are various types of ovarian cancer, these are split into 3 categories. 

  1. Epithelial is the most common ovarian cancer which develops from cells that cover the ovaries. 90% of ovarian cancers fall into this category.
  2. Germ Cell ovarian cancers are more common in younger females and affect 3% of those who are diagnosed. However, not all germ cell tumours are cancerous.
  3. Sex-cord Stromal are rare tumours of the ovary and 5% of ovarian cancers fall into this group.

 There are a range of reasons why a diagnosed of ovarian cancer is made, including,

  • ⁠Being over 50 years old
  • Family history of either ovarian or breast cancer
  • Taking HRT tablets
  • Endometriosis
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise

Testing For Ovarian Cancer

If the doctor believes that you may have ovarian cancer, they will send you for a blood test. They are looking at your levels of CA125, which is a protein in your blood. If this is over 35 units per millilitre (u/ml) it suggests you may have ovarian cancer.

If you have a reading over 35 (u/ml) then you’ll be sent for further tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan. Both of these tests scan your body to get an image of what’s going on inside.

Signs of Ovarian Cancer

There is a simple way of remembering the signs of ovarian cancer and that is to remember the word B.E.A.T.

B is for bloating that doesn’t come and go⁠

E is for eating difficulty and feeling full more quickly⁠

A is for abdominal and pelvic pain you feel most days⁠

T is for toilet changes in urination or bowel habits⁠

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can vary but and some of the other symptoms such as:⁠

It’s far more likely that these symptoms will be due to something less serious than ovarian cancer. It’s a good idea to see your G.P. if you’ve felt bloated for more than 12 times a month, have other symptoms of ovarian cancer, or a family history of ovarian cancer.

Medical Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

There are two main types of medical treatment, surgery and chemotherapy.

It’s common that both treatments are offered. Advice may be given for someone to have chemo to prepare for surgery, or to kill cancer cells following surgery.

Following successful treatment, the patient will be called back for regular check-ups to ensure the cancer has not come back. If it does, then more treatment will be offered.

The NHS state that overall, around half of patients with ovarian cancer will live for at least 5 years after diagnosis and about 1 in 3 will live at least 10 years. Cancer Research Uk comment, ‘Your outcome depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.’

Complementary Therapies for Ovarian Cancer

There are a range of complementary therapies that can be used to fight ovarian cancer. Complementary therapies are to be used alongside medical treatment and are not the same as alternative therapies. The hope is that complementary therapies help the person to keep the side effects of the cancer and treatments at bay.

According to Ovacome, some complementary therapies are,
Massage therapies
Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Vitamin therapy
Plants and herbs
Turmeric (curcumin)
If you’d like further information on these, please click here.

In Conclusion

The NHS state that ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers in people with ovaries over the age of 50. There are a range of causes including, smoking, not getting enough exercise, and being on HRT.

To remember the signs of ovarian cancer, remember B.E.A.T. and if you have the symptoms, book an appointment to chat them through with your doctor.

There are various treatments available and complementary therapies are an option to help manage the side effects of ovarian cancer.