Understanding Ovarian Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Understanding Ovarian Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

September is gynaecological cancer awareness month, and it is crucial to recognize the symptoms of different types of gynaecological cancers. Ovarian cancer, in particular, can often go undetected due to its similarity to common illnesses. Bloating, for example, is a typical symptom of ovarian cancer, but many women may dismiss it as a result of their diet or menopause. Early diagnosis is vital as it improves the chances of successful treatment. This article aims to provide an overview of ovarian cancer, including its causes, symptoms, and available treatments.

Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries, which are the two small, oval-shaped organs responsible for releasing eggs during the ovulation and menstrual cycle. It is estimated that around 7,400 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK each year. Most ovarian cancers are believed to originate from the cells at the end of the fallopian tube and then spread to the ovaries or the peritoneum. The most common type of ovarian cancer is epithelial ovarian cancer, accounting for 80% of cases. Other types include borderline tumors and rare germ cell ovarian tumors.

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, but it is more common in women over the age of 50. There may also be a genetic predisposition, as ovarian cancer can sometimes run in families.

Recognizing the symptoms of ovarian cancer is crucial for early detection. Alongside bloating, other common symptoms include fatigue, back pain, and a swollen abdomen. While these symptoms can be caused by various factors, if they occur frequently (around 12 times or more a month), they should not be ignored. Additional symptoms may include indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, frequent urination, loss of appetite, weight loss, and post-menopausal vaginal bleeding.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult your GP. They will ask questions about your health and family medical history and may conduct a physical examination. If necessary, they will refer you to a specialist who will determine the appropriate course of treatment based on factors such as the size and type of the cancer, its location, and your overall health.

Treatment options for ovarian cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapies, and hormone therapy. Surgery often involves the removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes, while a hysterectomy may also be considered. These procedures can be combined with other forms of treatment depending on the specific case.

For more information and support related to ovarian cancer, visit Macmillan or speak to your healthcare provider.

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