Melissa C. Koh

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What You Need To Know About Ovarian Cancer

Lifestyle

The ‘C’ word is often not mentioned or discussed in great lengths online. Since September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, I’d like to shed some light on this silent killer in women.

Ovarian cancer starts when the cells grow abnormally in the ovaries and it can start in the fallopian tubes, which are tubes that connect the ovary to the uterus. Ovarian cancer is one of the sixth most common cancer among women and it typically affects women aged 45 years old and above, but it affects young women too. It is known that an estimate of 7,300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually and 11 of those women die each day.

There are several types of ovarian cancer.

1. Epithelial cancers are cancer cells that cover the outside of the ovary.
2. Germ cell cancers start from the ovarian cells that make the eggs.
3. Stromal cancers start from cells that hold the ovary together and make female hormones.
4. Fallopian tube cancer is a rare cancer that is similar to epithelial ovarian cancer. It begins in the tube that carries an egg from the ovary to the uterus.

Many of us do take pride in eating right, exercising regularly and/or hitting the gym. However, not as many are as disciplined about getting annual health check-ups which includes cervical and breast screening.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer like, persistent bloating, abdominal pain, acid reflux/heartburn and a change in urinary frequency, are easily overlooked as it could contribute as ‘growing old’ in perimenopausal and menopausal women. A visit to the doctor might result in tests for unrelated issues which is why it is known as the silent killer, and typically, in early stages there are no symptoms at all.

These are 4 things to take note of for early ovarian cancer detection:

1. Get a Pap test. This test do not test for ovarian cancer, but it might identify the existence of cancerous cells in the cervix. Cervical cancer is the most curable and treatable form of cancer in women as well, hence, having a routine Pap test could save your live.

2. Get a rectal exam. A digital rectal exam is an excellent method for the doctor to identify abnormalities in female organs, which includes ovarian cancer (enlarged ovaries).

3. You are your own health advocate. If you have been experiencing bloating or abdominal pain that do not go away, a visit to the doctor should derive answers.

4. Find a specialist. If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it’s important to see a gynecologic oncologist, who is trained and experienced in treating not only the disease, but the entire patient.

Most women have one or more risk factors for ovarian cancer, but not much is known about the preventive ways for ovarian cancer. As always, I’d recommended keeping as stress-free as possible (I know easier said than done), getting adequate rest and sleep, and eating a good diet (lots of berries filled with antioxidants, beet root, and you daily dose of leafy greens)!

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