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ovarian cancer

Ovarian Cancer & The Early Symptoms

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Singapore that affects the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The ovaries are responsible for the production of eggs and female hormones during a woman’s reproductive life.

Prognosis for ovarian cancer has improved over the last couple of decades due to better chemotherapy treatments, and early diagnosis supports the effectiveness of the treatment.

Thus, understanding your risk factors of developing ovarian cancer, and going for annual pelvic examinations will help with early detection, thus improving the survival rate.

Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer:

  • Women with no or few pregnancies
  • A family history of ovarian cancer or other cancers
  • A high-fat diet
  • Women who had their first periods before age 12, and/or those who have undergone menopause after age 55

Common Early Symptoms

  • Constant discomfort of a feeling of “pressure” in the lower abdomen
  • Persistent stomach bloating
  • An enlarged abdomen
  • Difficulty in eating and feeling full quickly

Other Signs of Ovarian Cancer

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased urine frequency
  • Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Flatulence and indigestion
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained loss of weight or appetite
  • Pain in the back or legs
ovarian cancer
Credits: Ovarian.org

Diagnosis and Prevention

There are no early tests for ovarian cancer, like cervical cancer does.

However, it can be detected through your annual pelvic examination and vaginal ultrasound, especially for women who are at higher risk of developing it. Further blood cancer marker tests may be by ordered your doctor to distinguish it.

Other diagnostic tests may include a CT and/or MRI scan of the lower abdomen or urinary tract, as well as a chest X-ray to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas.

A biopsy, which involves surgery, will be performed to confirm the diagnosis of ovarian cancer and determine the extent of it. This involves the extraction of fluid from the lower abdomen.

Treatments

Surgery

For women who wish to preserve their fertility, removal of only the affected ovary and Fallopian tube may be possible.

There is also the option of hysterectomy which is the removal of the uterus (or womb), cervix, both ovaries and Fallopian tubes. If the cancer has spread to other areas, they may also be removed.

Most women with ovarian cancer will require chemotherapy after surgery.

Chemotherapy

In some cases, chemotherapy treatment may be given before surgery. The administered drug will enter the bloodstream to the entire body and aims to destroy cancer cells.

Radiotherapy

This treatment option is occasionally used only if the tumour is confined to the pelvis. Radiotherapy may also be used post-surgery to remove remaining cancer cells.

This article is part of our Gynaecological Cancers series. To know more about other Gynaecological Cancers, continue reading about Cervical Cancerand Uterine Cancer.

References:

  1. Gleneagles Singapore (2019). Ovarian Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.gleneagles.com.sg/facilities-services/centre-excellence/cancer-care/ovarian-cancer
  2. Singapore Cancer Society (2016). Ovarian Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/learn-about-cancer/types-of-cancer/ovarian-cancer.html
  3. Singhealth Group (2019). Ovarian Cancer: What It Is, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/conditions-treatments/ovarian-cancer-surgery

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