September is Ovarian Cancer awareness month – What should you know about ovarian cancer, risks, and signs?
Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries, which are the walnut sized organs found in a woman’s lower abdomen. These are the structures that mature and release eggs in the woman’s body which then travel down fallopian tubes to the uterus. Cancers of the ovaries can come from the cells around the outside of the ovary (epithelial cells), cells of the middle of the ovary (germ cells), or cells from the connective tissue of the ovary (stromal cells). Each of these different cell types can develop different kinds of cancer.
Risk Factors: Certain factors increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer:
- Age –ovarian cancer is more common in women aged 50-79.
- Ethnicity – Jewish women of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) background have a higher risk. French Canadians of certain ancestry may be at increased risk.
- Family history – your risk is higher if your mother, grandmother, or sister has a history of ovarian, breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer.
- Genetic mutations – your risk is higher if you have certain genetic mutations, such as BRCA or lynch gene mutations.
- Reproductive history – your risk is higher if you have not delivered a child or have had difficulty getting pregnant.
- Hormone replacement –your risk may be higher if you have taken hormone replacement.
- Other factors – your risk may be higher if you have a history of a condition called endometriosis.
Prevention of ovarian cancer
The following factors can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer:
- Oral contraceptives – When used for 5 years or longer, some studies are showing oral contraceptives can reduce risk of ovarian cancer. This long-term effect has been shown to continue after use of oral contraception has stopped.
- Full-term pregnancy – Ovulation stops or occurs less often in women who are pregnant. Some experts believe that this interruption reduces a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Tubal ligation – If a woman is having tubal ligation, it is recommended that she have her fallopian tubes removed if they are no longer needed for reproduction. Removal of the fallopian tubes, and ovaries is only recommended for women at extremely high risk of ovarian cancer
Part of the challenge with ovarian cancer is that initial symptoms are vague and non-specific. These can include bloating and/or pain in the pelvis or abdomen, urinary frequency or urgency, and bowel changes like constipation. These symptoms do not mean that you have ovarian cancer, however if they are new, persistent (for over 3 weeks), and frequent then you should see a doctor.
There are currently no approved screening tests for this cancer type, however if you are experiencing any of the symptoms from above and are seen in our clinic some examinations that may be performed include a complete abdominal and pelvic exam, a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test. The only definitive way to diagnose ovarian cancer is through a biopsy.
At IHC ovarian cancer is treated through a fully integrated and comprehensive approach. There are many treatments that can be used to support a patient going through standard of care. There have been clinical trials supporting the use of hyperthermia and intravenous therapies during ovarian cancer treatment showing patients getting better outcomes. Other supportive treatments include the use of mistletoe lectins, diet and lifestyle advice, as well as other evidence based vitamins and nutrients. Please see our digital resource library (found in the cancer care section of the website) for links to some of these articles, Click Here.
Information here has been adapted from the Ovarian Cancer Canada website (ovariancanada.org), and additional information can be found there including a list of local support groups and events.
If you or a friend or loved one want more information on the prevention or treatment of ovarian cancer please contact the clinic at 604-888-8325, or Check out our website at www.integratedhealthclinic.com