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What is Ovarian cancer? Know causes, signs, symptoms, treatment and precautions of the disease

Here's all you need to know about ovarian cancer, its causes, signs, symptoms, treatment options, and essential precautions to safeguard against this potentially life-threatening disease. Arm yourself with knowledge to recognise early warning signs and seek timely medical intervention.

Written By: Muskan Gupta @guptamuskan_ New Delhi Published on: June 12, 2024 9:47 IST
Ovarian cancer
Image Source : SOCIAL What is Ovarian cancer? Know causes, signs, and more

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and hormones. It is the seventh most common cancer among women worldwide and one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women. Understanding its causes, signs, symptoms, treatment options, and precautions is crucial for early detection and effective management.

Causes of Ovarian Cancer

While the exact cause of ovarian cancer remains unclear, certain factors may increase a woman's risk of developing it. These risk factors include:

  • Genetics: A family history of ovarian or breast cancer, especially mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, increases the risk.
  • Age: Ovarian cancer primarily affects older women, with the risk increasing with age.
  • Reproductive History: Women who have never been pregnant or have had fertility treatments may have a higher risk.
  • Hormonal Factors: Hormonal factors such as early menstruation, late menopause, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can influence the risk.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often called the 'silent killer' because its symptoms may be subtle and easily overlooked. However, being aware of the following signs and symptoms can aid in early detection:

  • Abdominal or Pelvic Pain: Persistent pain in the pelvic or abdominal region, unrelated to menstruation or digestive issues.
  • Bloating: Frequent bloating or feeling full quickly after eating, even when consuming small amounts of food.
  • Changes in Bathroom Habits: Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or frequent urination.
  • Loss of Appetite or Feeling Full Quickly: A sudden loss of appetite or feeling full after eating a small meal.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Significant and unexplained weight loss without changes in diet or physical activity.

Treatment Options of Ovarian Cancer

Treatment for ovarian cancer typically involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and in some cases, radiation therapy. The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the stage and type of cancer, the patient's overall health, and their preferences. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and nearby tissues affected by cancer (debulking surgery).
  • Chemotherapy: Powerful medications that kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing and dividing.
  • Targeted Therapy: Drugs that specifically target cancer cells, are often used in combination with chemotherapy.
  • Hormone Therapy: Medications that block the effects of certain hormones on cancer cells.

Precautions and Risk Reduction

While not all cases of ovarian cancer can be prevented, certain lifestyle changes and precautions may help reduce the risk:

  • Regular Screening: Women with a family history of ovarian cancer or genetic predisposition should undergo regular screening tests, such as pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasounds, and CA-125 blood tests.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and regular exercise may help reduce the risk.
  • Birth Control Pills: Long-term use of oral contraceptives may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Women who have had full-term pregnancies and breastfed may have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Genetic Counselling: Women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer should consider genetic counselling and testing to assess their risk.

In conclusion, ovarian cancer is a serious health concern for women worldwide, but early detection and prompt treatment can significantly improve outcomes. By understanding the causes, signs, symptoms, treatment options, and precautions associated with ovarian cancer, women can take proactive steps to protect their health and well-being. Regular cheque-ups, healthy lifestyle choices, and genetic counselling can play a crucial role in reducing the risk and improving outcomes for those affected by this disease.

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