Information on Ovarian Cancer:
The causes of ovarian cancer
Currently, Scientists are not sure what causes ovarian cancer in women. However, there are some patterns that are emerging that may be of value in predicting if you are in a high-risk group:
- Ovarian cancer seems to be more common in women who do not have children.
- The contraceptive pill seems to substantially decrease your risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Ovarian cancer can be caused by an inherited faulty gene in some rare cases.
If you have any close family members with ovarian cancer, especially if there is more than one case in your immediate family, you may have an increased risk due to this hereditary factor.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer
The symptoms of ovarian cancer often take some time before they appear. The following symptoms may indicate ovarian cancer:
- reduced or lack of appetite,
- pain or selling in the lower abdomen,
- feeling bloated, nausea and indigestion,
- persistent diarrhoea or constipation,
- on rare occasions abnormal vaginal bleeding may also be present.
The above symptoms can also be found in the presence of other conditions, but if you are experiencing any of these, you should consult your Doctor immediately.
Methods of diagnosis
Having been referred to your local hospital for further tests, the following methods are used to help diagnose ovarian cancer, and to assess if the condition has spread to other parts of the body:
- Physical examination – which includes an internal (vaginal) examination to check for any abnormalities – sometimes accompanied by a rectal examination.
- Abdominal fluid aspiration – a sample of fluid that has accumulated in the abdomen can be removed for investigation by the laboratory to look for any signs of cancer.
- Blood tests – such as CA 125, which can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.
- Barium enema – This is where an X-ray of the bowel is taken with the aid of barium – a substance which shows up clearly on the x-ray.
- CT (CAT) scan.
- Laparoscopy – a procedure whereby the doctor is able to examine the ovaries under general anaesthetic using an instrument called a laparoscope. If there appear to be any abnormalities, the doctor can also conduct a biopsy at the same time.
- Laparotomy – on occasion ovarian cancer cannot be accurately diagnosed before investigative surgery is necessary.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI or NMR scan).
- Ultrasound scan.