Ovarian cancer is a general term used to describe a cancerous (malignant) tumour starting in one or both ovaries. The ovaries are made up of three main kinds of cells – epithelial cells, stromal cells and germ cells. Each of these cells can develop into a different type of tumour. The average age of women when they are diagnosed with ovarian cancer is age 64. It is mainly diagnosed in women over the age of 50; however, there are cases diagnosed in younger women.
Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer in Australia. About 1580 Australian women are diagnosed each year.
There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, so all women need to be aware of the symptoms. The most commonly reported symptoms for ovarian cancer are:
· Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
· Abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain
· Feeling full after eating a small amount
· Needing to urinate often or urgently
It is important to remember all the symptoms mentioned can be caused by other, less serious medical conditions. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, which are persistent and troublesome, you should see your doctor. They will be able to examine you and if necessary, do further tests to find the cause of your problems.
If you are not comfortable with your doctor’s diagnosis or you are still concerned about unexplained persistent symptoms, you should seek a second opinion.
You know your body better than anyone else, so always listen to what your body is saying and trust your instincts.
We don’t know the exact causes of most ovarian cancers. However, we do know there are factors that may increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Getting older is the biggest risk factor for developing ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer can happen at any age, but it is usually in women who have been through menopause, with the average age of diagnosis being age 64.
These account for approximately 20% of ovarian cancers. Hereditary factors include:
other factors that may increase the risk of ovarian cancer include:
There are also ways in which you can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer:
However, many women having adopted protective measures may still develop ovarian cancer.