Ovarian Cancer is a Silent Killer: What You Need to Know About the Symptoms
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer affecting women. Because the symptoms of this disease mimic so many other common ailments in the early days, it is often likely to go undiagnosed for a long time. This gives the cancer plenty of time to develop and spread before the issue is diagnosed. Here is what you need to know about this particularly dangerous type of cancer.
Types of Ovarian Cancer
There are three primary types of ovarian cancer. Understanding the specific type helps doctors to prescribe the best course of treatment. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type, encompassing numerous subtypes of the disease such as carcinoma. Stromal tumors are generally diagnosed at an earlier stage, sometimes delivering a better prognosis. The rare germ cell tumors tend to be diagnosed when women are younger.
Risk Factors Associated with Ovarian Cancer
Like any type of cancer, there are a number of risk factors that increase the odds that you will be diagnosed with this disease. Age is the most prevalent risk factor associated with ovarian cancer. The older that you are, the more likely it is that you will be diagnosed. A family history of ovarian cancer also puts you at a greater risk of developing this disease later down the road. Just like having a family history, there are also some hereditary gene changes that make it more likely that you will see this type of cancer develop.
Other risk factors for ovarian cancer include being overweight or obese, never having been pregnant, the onset of menstruation at an early age, a later start to menopause, and being diagnosed with endometriosis. Additionally, some studies have shown that taking hormone replacement therapy in an effort to regulate the signs and uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause may also raise your personal risk.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
It can often be difficult to isolate the symptoms of ovarian cancer. This is because these symptoms are generally so vague that most people are likely to attribute the discomfort to something else.
One of the first signs that ovarian cancer patients remember noticing in the early days is the sensation of feeling bloated. This bloating may present as simple discomfort or as visible abdominal swelling. Feeling full more quickly when you are eating is another sign that something may be obstructing your stomach.
Many women also report changes in their bowel movements. Getting to know what is a normal bowel schedule for you can help you to detect a number of health issues, including signaling the early signs of ovarian cancer. Related to this symptom is an increase in the frequency of urination.
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include sudden and unexplained weight loss, pain in the pelvic area, back pain, and fatigue. As you can see, many of these symptoms can be explained by other health conditions. This is why it is often so challenging to pinpoint ovarian cancer as a reason for the symptoms. As with any type of serious health issue, you are much more likely to catch it early if you are in tune with your body and proactive about seeking treatment if something feels off to you.
Steps to Prevent Ovarian Cancer
There is no sure-fire way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, there are steps that you can take today to lower your risk. Because of their hormone suppression ability, taking birth control pills may be a good way to reduce the threat of ovarian cancer. It is also important to keep an open dialogue with your physician about your risks of developing this dangerous type of cancer.
Knowing your family history and your own personal genetic risk can empower you to make the right decisions about your health. For example, if genetic testing reveals that you have an elevated risk of developing this type of cancer, your physician may recommend removing these ovaries as a preventative measure.
While you can never completely eliminate your risk of developing ovarian cancer, being aware of the risks and the symptoms can go a long way in helping you to respond accordingly. It is always important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
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