The early stages of a grave illness could be passed off as “feeling bloated”. There are other warning signs you may ignore, but here’s the full low-down on what you need to be aware of.
Early stage ovarian cancer can present a sudden onset of symptoms – with persistent bloating being one of them.
Another early predictor of the cancer – confirmed by the informative charity Ovarian Cancer Action – is feeling full more quickly when eating.
Additional signs include needing to urinate more often and persistent stomach pain.
Further symptoms of the condition may be back pain, changes in bowel habits and extreme tiredness for unknown reasons.
Do note that there is no effective screening method for ovarian cancer, but do seek medical attention if your symptoms are persistent, severe, frequent or out of the ordinary.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian Cancer Action explained that the ovaries are two small glands that form part of the female reproductive system.
The ovaries are responsible for producing, storing and releasing eggs for reproduction.
Additionally, they predict the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
Other bodily parts of the female reproductive system are the vagina, cervix, uterus and Fallopian tubes.
Cancer cells can rapidly multiply in the ovaries, creating a tumour, which is malignant.
Malignant tumours may spread to other parts of the body and can be life-threatening.
Abnormal cells can also amass into benign tumours, which don’t spread to other body parts.
These types of tumours may require treatment but are rarely a threat to your life.
A diagnosis of ovarian cancer tends to fall under three types: epithelial, germ cell and sex-cord stromal.
Epithelial ovarian cancer
This is the most common type of ovarian cancer (accounting for 90 percent of cases). This type of tumour develops on the surface of the ovary.
Germ cell ovarian cancer
This form of ovarian cancer is rare, accounting for around five percent of cancer cases.
These types of tumours originate in the cells within the ovary that develop into eggs.
Sex-cord ovarian cancer
Sex-cord ovarian cancer is also less common, and begin in the connective cells that hold the ovaries together.
Risk factors for developing ovarian cancer
The main risk factor for developing ovarian cancer is whether there’s a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.
If two or more relatives from the same side of the family have had ovarian or breast cancer, you may have inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
This faulty gene creates a greater chance of developing the disease, which is typically seen if you’re of Ashkenazi, Jewish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Dutch, Pakistani or Polish descent.
Another risk factor that you simply can’t control is growing older in age.
Most ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 50, who have gone through the menopause.