Because Ovarian Cancer is a difficult one to know about.
It’s officially “Ovarian Cancer Awareness” month also to note September 24th kicks off Active Aging Week, created by the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA) so there’s no shortage of health-related matters to think about! More on aging in the weeks to come as today the information about Ovarian Cancer is one we need to share.
There are so many things to know about cancer and then when you get specific to one type things really get confusing. I know that the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer overlap with many of the complaints women experience with regular menstruation and menopause. But I never connected complaints that overlap easily with “life” like stresses like fatigue, upset stomach, constipation, bloating, and back pain.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth deadliest cancer for women in Canada. Roughly 2,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer per year, and for over half of those women, the cancer will be fatal. Only 15% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at stage 1. “This is incredibly significant because this infrequency of early diagnoses is what makes ovarian cancer so deadly,” writes Caitlin Hoff from ConsumerSafety.org in her emails to me.
What is it?
Ovarian cancer starts in the cells of the ovary. A cancerous (malignant) tumor is a group of cells that can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous ovarian tumors are grouped by the type of cells that the cancer starts in and there are many different types.
Why is it so hard to diagnose?
1) Female Physiology
The ovaries are the organs in a woman’s reproductive system that produce eggs (ova). There are 2 of them, and they are deep in a woman’s pelvis, on both sides of the uterus (womb), close to the ends of the fallopian tubes. The ovaries have 2 main functions. They make the female sex hormones and they produce mature eggs. The ovaries are deep within the abdomen, and when symptoms relating to the cancer are apparent, they are often misinterpreted as other ailments.
2) Subtle Symptoms
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Constipation or menstrual changes
3) No single definitive test available
“A combination of a pelvic/rectal examination, vaginal or abdominal ultrasound, and a CA-125 blood test can often detect the cancer. There is another diagnostic tool emerging called the “Ovarian Pap Test,” which uses laparoscopy to collect cells from the ovaries and abdomen, much as a pap test collects cells from the cervix to test for cervical cancer. This test has not yet been widely accepted, but will hopefully come into practical use in the near future.” (-2)
The best thing that women can do to protect themselves is to pay attention to their bodies, visit their gynecologist annually and listen for any unusual whispering from within. (-1)
Know What Increases Your Risk
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Increasing in age over 40
- Obesity, or a BMI of at least 30
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
Does Talcum powder cause Ovarian Cancer? Many may recall the pharmaceutical company’s popular marketing slogan from the 1980s: “A sprinkle a day keeps odour away.” However, numerous studies over the past several decades have found a connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, raising concerns over whether these products are as safe as they were advertised.
From a consumer standpoint, it’s good to look at recent court verdicts involving ovarian cancer. You may have seen it already on our site, but we wrote a blog post about the latest court verdict linking the consumer product talcum powder (talc-based baby powder) and ovarian cancer development”, states Hoff.
In my emails with Hoff I asked if she could expand on this risk factor of genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. She explains that as far as the gene mutations go, BRCA 1 & 2 are actually named for breast cancer – BReast CAncer. They are two genes, that when mutated, can greatly increase your risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. These are hereditary mutations that doctors often use to indicate if someone may be more susceptible to breast or ovarian cancer. It’s important to know the difference between indicate and diagnose here. Not everyone with this genetic mutation will develop cancer, but a person is certainly more at risk.
Prioritizing your health is important. Seeking medical advice and advocating for yourself is needed in today’s world. Please pay attention to what your body is telling you.
You can and you should!
Written by: Sheila Hamilton September 2017
Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.
Emails from Caitlin Hoff at consumer Safety