Stats, Symptoms And Risks: Everything You Should Know About Ovarian Cancer

It's so important to know that facts.

Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day, and, as with all cancers early detection offers the best chance of survival.

Over 400 people are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in Ireland, making it the 6th most common cancer in women. While 4 out of 5 cases are diagnosed in women over 50, this does not make people younger than this exempt.

With this in mind we’ve put together a list of everything you need to know about ovarian cancer, from statistics to symptoms.

Are there many risk factors when it comes to ovarian cancer? 

Family history often plays a big part when it comes to cancer, so if someone in your family has suffered from breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate or colon cancer, it can be a risk factor. Also, unsurprisingly, smoking increases the risk of most illnesses, and cancers in particular. Other medical conditions can also be a risk factor, such as previous cancer, endometriosis or diabetes. You risk is also higher if you’ve never been pregnant, or you’ve taken HRT (hormone replacement).

What to look out for: 

Unfortunately symptoms can be quite subtle which means that most women won’t notice any symptoms, or the symptoms can be quite mild but they can also be persistent.

More common symptoms include: 

• Painful abdomen or pelvic area
• Bloating or discomfort
• Urinary symptoms – a frequency or urgency
• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

Other less common symptoms include: 

• Changes in bowel function – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Passing urine more often than normal
• Bleeding after menopause
• Nausea
• Unexplained weight gain
• Gastritis
• Infertility or changes in menstrual patterns
• Abdominal pain, back pain or extreme tiredness
• If you are eating and drinking normally and exercising in the way that you always do, but gaining weight, seek medical advice.

What should I do if I have symptoms like this? 

If you have any of these symptoms, the HSE recommends that you keep a symptom diary to see how many of these symptoms you have over a longer period. It’s important to remember that ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40 years old but if something doesn’t feel right and it’s been longer than two or three weeks, it’s also important to talk to your GP.

Is there a test I can get? 

Unlike cervical cancer or breast cancer there is no regular screening test for ovarian cancer. So if you’re concerned about ovarian cancer, particularly if you have a family history of the disease, you should consult your doctor. There are a numbers of tests and checks that can be carried out in this case including ultrasounds and blood tests.

Keeping active and quitting smoking are ways to reduce your risk

Are there ways to reduce my risk? 

The combined contraceptive pill is known to almost halve the risk of ovarian cancer if taken for five years or more, according to World Ovarian Cancer Day. Cutting out smoking, and generally maintaining a healthy lifestyle is generally a good idea in terms of health issues.

Ovarian cancer is rare in women under 50, but it’s important to remember that all women are at risk, and so knowing the symptoms, and consulting your doctor when you’re worried, is never any hard.

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