Ovarian cancer is a formidable foe that silently affects thousands of women worldwide every year, life threatening in 1.6% of total female population. Often referred to as the “silent killer,” this cancer tends to go unnoticed in its early stages, making awareness and vigilance crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment.
The challenge with ovarian cancer lies in its subtle symptoms, which can easily be dismissed or attributed to other conditions. Common indicators include persistent bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, difficulty eating, and frequent urination. Additionally, unexplained fatigue, changes in bowel habits, and sudden weight loss can also be warning signs. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often vague and non-specific, making it challenging to identify ovarian cancer early on.
While ovarian cancer can affect any woman, certain factors increase the risk. Age, family history, and inherited gene mutations such as BRCA1 (40-60%) and BRCA2 (20-35%) play significant roles. Women who have never been pregnant, those who started menstruating at an early age or experienced late menopause, and those who have a history of endometriosis are also at a higher risk.
What to Do:
- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body and any changes in your health. If you experience persistent or unusual symptoms, consult your healthcare provider.
- Regular Check-ups: Routine gynecological check-ups are crucial for early detection. Regular pelvic examinations and screenings can help identify any abnormalities in the ovaries.
- Know Your Family History: Understanding your family’s medical history is essential. If there is a history of ovarian or breast cancer, inform your healthcare provider, as this may warrant more frequent screenings.
- Genetic Counseling: If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or carry known genetic mutations, consider genetic counseling. This can help assess your risk and guide preventive measures.
- Seek Medical Attention Promptly: If you notice persistent symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical advice. Early diagnosis significantly improves the chances of successful treatment.
- Imaging Tests: In cases where ovarian cancer is suspected, imaging tests such as ultrasounds, color flow doppler study and CT scans may be recommended to visualize the ovaries and surrounding tissues.
- Consult a Gynecologic Oncologist: If ovarian cancer is diagnosed, it’s crucial to consult a gynecologic oncologist, as they specialize in the treatment of gynecological cancers. They can provide expert guidance on the most effective treatment options, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.
In conclusion, awareness and proactive healthcare are pivotal in the fight against ovarian cancer. Understanding the symptoms, recognizing risk factors, and taking prompt action can make a significant difference in the prognosis and treatment outcomes for those affected by this challenging disease. Regular check-ups, open communication with healthcare providers, and a commitment to early detection are essential steps in the battle against ovarian cancer.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Nargis Nahar
Obstetrics and Gynaecology