There are many difficulties of detecting what is ovarian cancer, since the symptoms of this disease are often nonexistent or very subtle, particularly in the initial phase of the cancer. We look at some of the common questions relating to ovarian cancer.
What is ovarian cancer?
This is an exclusively female cancer that arises out of cancerous growths in the ovary. About 90 per cent of cases of ovarian cancer relate to epithelial cancer and at times it is the fallopian tube(s) that could be responsible for the cancer.
Why ovarian cancer is called the silent killer?
The symptoms could be subtle and may be quite generic in nature, causing them to be confused with other illnesses.
This is why; the symptoms of ovarian cancer often receive improper treatment or very late treatment, when the cancer has advanced to a point that is incurable or life threatening.
Very often the symptoms of ovarian cancer may not be recognized or diagnosed for a very long time.
Consider these statistics about what is ovarian cancer: 7000 women each year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 5000 of those women will not survive their disease. Whereas breast cancer kills 30% of women with the disease, ovarian cancer kills 71% of sufferers.
Since most ovarian cancers are at an advanced and difficult to treat or life threatening stage when treatment is started and their prognosis is usually so poor, this is what earns them the tag of ‘Silent Killer’.
What is ovarian cancer caused by?
Clinicians do not understand what causes ovarian cancer, but at least some of the risk factors of the disease are understood. Genetics is known to play a part so a woman who has close relatives with ovarian cancer is seen to be more at risk.
Women with problems such as fertility issues, endometriosis, or those who have never been pregnant are also more at risk (the risk is lower, the more children a woman has). Women who have taken hormone replacement therapy after menopause may also be at greater risk.
Other factors such as talc use, intake of milk, asbestos exposure, high dietary fat content, infection with mumps in childhood are also postulated as being risk factors for ovarian cancer but these remain unproven.
Women who have undergone tubal ligation or who take hormonal contraceptives are seen to be at lower risk.
What are the common symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Usually symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and non-specific in nature but if you know what to look for, this could give some advance warning.
- Pain is one of the main symptoms. It could be a lower back pain or a pelvic pain.
- Abdominal bloating or buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity could be another symptom.
- There could be the frequent urge to urinate or even incontinence.
- Unexplained weight loss and appetite changes may also be seen.
- Feeling tired or generally unwell.
This then is what is ovarian cancer in a nutshell and these are the symptoms you should watch out for.