All About Ovarian Cancer

Mar 25, 2012 1 Comment by

The survival rates make grim reading, but PMG is backing Target Ovarian Cancer’s campaign to make one million women aware of the symptoms.. and save lives….

While regular cervical smear tests and mammograms have become a way of life, there is no screening programme for the deadliest of all gynecological cancers. More than that, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be confused with conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, leading to delay in seeking help or misdiagnosis.

This means that out of the 6,500 women diagnosed each year, sadly, only one in three will live beyond five years. Ovarian cancer is nearly four times as common as cervical cancer. Twelve woman die every day from this disease, yet almost a third of women face delays of six months or more in getting correct diagnosis from first visiting their GP, and a similar proportion are diagnosed through Accident and Emergency.
Frustratingly, if women were diagnosed at an early stage, it is believed 70 per cent could survive, but at present, in three-quarters of all cases, the cancer has already spread. This makes successful treatment much more difficult.

Yet our knowledge of this cancer is improving fast and new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) could help GPs identify symptoms early enough.

Ovarian Cancer stages

What Are The Symptoms?

Lynn Holmes, gynecologist Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) for Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, suggests three aspects to bear in mind when considering seeking advice about symptoms: Are they frequent and happen more than 12 times a month? Are they persistent and don’t go away? Are they new and not normal for you? It may help to make a note of symptoms and when they occur, and if you are worried, make an appointment with your GP. These are signs to watch for…

  • Increased abdominal size or persistent bloating
  • Felling full quicker
  • Urgency or more frequent need to empty the bladder
  • A feeling of discomfort or pressure in the abdomen – not acute pain
  • Occasionally other symptoms can include changes in bowel habit, feeling very tired and unexplained weight loss

What You Can Do

  • Spread The Word Target Ovarian Cancer want one million women to understand what to look out for and how to seek help. And it’s all about you! Visit their website and download the symptoms leaflet, give it to your friends and find easy ways to raise awareness. Earlier diagnosis means saving lives, so learn about the symptoms and spread the word.
  • What’s Needed Lack of investment has meant no new life-extending treatments for women with ovarian cancer have been developed for more than 20 years, but you can change that. Target Ovarian Cancer aim to raise money to fund research so that at least two new treatments are in final clinical trials by 2020. Find ideas to raise money can Target Ovarian Cancer website.

How Is It Treated?

Surgery and chemotherapy are the main options. Mr Khalil Razvi, consultant gynaecologist at Southend University Hospital, says it’s normal to perform a total hysterectomy. Sometimes chemotherapy is used to shrink tumor before surgery.

Mr Razvi adds, “There is a trend now towards more radical surgery, especially in the upper abdomen, including removing the peritoneum, which is the lining of tissue that drapes the abdominal wall and organs where the cancer may come back. Most women will then be given a course of taxol and Carboplatin chemotherapies – and the combination usually clears 70 per cent of women of cancer. However, ovarian cancer does have a high recurrence rate.”

Doctors are now interested in Avastin (bevacizumab), a drug used in other cancers, to treat newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer. It’s not available on the NHS and it’s too early to say what difference it will make.

Seeing Your GP

While it’s unlikely you have such a serious condition, it’s fine to tell your GP you are worried about ovarian cancer. They can carry out a physical examination and, if necessary, arrange a CA-125 blood test, which is not infallible but looks for a specific cancer marker in the blood. Your GP can also refer you for an ultrasound, to check the ovary, possibly followed by either an MRI or CT scan, depending on your hospital.

What Are The Causes?

The two most important factors are age – with likelihood increasing after 50, though younger women can get it too – and family history. A strong family history is classed as two or more cases of ovarian and/or breast cancer. Though this increase risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean someone will get ovarian cancer. You should tell your GP about a strong family history.

Mr Razvi says, “Cancer is caused by several stepwise changes to DNA in cells; in some types, we know what the trigger is (eg smoking in lung cancer), but in 90 per cent of cases of ovarian cancer, we simply don’t know. There is some evidence that women who don’t have children or have fewer pregnancies are more likely to be affected, so we have to ask if the process of incessant ovulation is involved. This is confirmed by research that shows women who take the contraceptive pill (which suppressed ovulation) long-term are less likely to suffer ovarian cancer.

“In ten per cent of cases, we do know there is a specific gene at fault: both the BRCA family of genes (commonly associated with breast cancer) and the Heredity Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC) gene. Women who have a family history of ovarian, breast, womb and colon cancer can be refered to a genetics service to ascertain their risks and may be offered screening.”
Lynn Holmes adds, “We don’t know what it causes it yet, so we can’t tell you how to prevent it. Some women thinks a cervical smear will detect ovarian cancer, but this is not the case and it can still develop even after a hysterectomy.”

Screening Test

Scientists are evaluating result of two large-scale UK trails. Prof Ian Jacobs, lead researcher and new head Head of the Manchester Academic Health science center (MAHSC), says, “We are not ready to report the result, but analysis show the test pick up 85 per cent of women who go on to develop ovarian cancer.”

The Figures

  • UK survival rates are among the lowest in Europe at 36%. A large benchmark study is under way to determine the causes, but it’s widely believed this is a result of late detection due to lack of awareness on the part of health professionals and patients.
  • The first results of the Department of Health’s International Cancer Benchmarking Study showed that late diagnosing the UK is a major contributor to its overall poor survival rates.
  • Women with ovarian cancer are five times more likely to die within a month of diagnosis than women with breast cancer(11% vs 2%).

Health And Nutrition

One Response to “All About Ovarian Cancer”

  1. Natalina says:

    I located what I used to be looking for.

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