Ovarian cancer is a prevalent form of cancer among women, yet only one in five Irish women feel confident about recognizing its symptoms. Identifying ovarian cancer can be challenging in the early stages as it may not display any symptoms or only present mild symptoms. Therefore, health officials from the HSE are urging people to familiarize themselves with the signs of ovarian cancer.
The ovaries, which are connected to the womb and store eggs, can be affected by cancer. Tumors can develop, leading to various symptoms. However, recognizing these symptoms can be difficult as they resemble those of other conditions. Unlike other cancers, there is no reliable screening test available for ovarian cancer, which is the reason why Ireland does not have a national ovarian screening program.
Ovarian cancer primarily affects women who have gone through menopause and are over the age of 50, although it can sometimes occur in younger individuals. It is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in Ireland, with around 400 new cases each year.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer may include feeling constantly bloated, having a swollen tummy, experiencing discomfort in the tummy or pelvic area, feeling full quickly when eating, or needing to urinate more frequently than usual. While these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, it is essential to consult a GP if there are any unusual changes. If irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms develop for the first time at the age of 50 or above, it is especially important to seek medical advice.
The causes of ovarian cancer are not fully understood, but certain factors may increase a woman’s risk of developing it. These include being over the age of 50, having a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, lack of exercise, endometriosis, being overweight, smoking, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and exposure to asbestos.
The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on the stage and spread of the cancer as well as the patient’s overall health. Surgery is often performed to remove as much cancer as possible, sometimes resulting in the removal of both ovaries, the womb, fallopian tubes, and fatty tissues in the abdomen. Chemotherapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells, either before or after surgery. Targeted therapies are newer treatment options that target specific parts of tumor cells.
Early detection and treatment significantly improve the chances of a cure for ovarian cancer. However, it is often not identified until it has already spread, making a cure more challenging. While treatment aims to cure the cancer whenever possible, in cases where the cancer has spread too far, the focus is on managing symptoms and controlling the cancer’s growth. Even after successful treatment, the cancer may return within a few years, and while it cannot be cured at that point, chemotherapy may help reduce symptoms and control the cancer.
– Irish Cancer Society