Ovarian cancer affects about quarter million women all over the world! It kills about 140,000 women annually. Surprisingly it does not distinguish between women of developed or developing countries! Hence it is essential to know all there to know about this dreaded disease. All of us must know the symptoms, risk factors, family history regarding ovarian cancer.
Sadly, ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate among all gynecologic cancers. Also it is characterized by lack of awareness of symptoms and late stage diagnosis. This is why May 8 got marked out in 2013 to observe World Ovarian Cancer Day. The day focuses on ovarian cancer and many of us educate communities about ovarian cancer. It is also a day to build solidarity for women fighting the disease.
Largely overlooked in terms of awareness creation and funding, it is time to tell all about it. Ovarian cancer symptoms are quite similar to other less serious conditions. Further absence of early detection tests results in late diagnosis, often leading to few survivors who may advocate or draw attention to the disease. It was therefore decided to draw worldwide attention and gladly the idea was accepted by participating countries that now offer good momentum.
It is really important to spread awareness about the disease, especially about its symptoms that often get confused with less serious conditions like gastrointestinal disorders! Most victims are identified only in advanced stages when the disease becomes difficult to treat. Hence it is critical to create awareness about the risk factors, signs and symptoms. Also, family history plays a definite role in identifying the disease.
Experts opine that frequency and combination of symptoms help in identifying ovarian cancer from other conditions. Anybody with the following symptoms on most days within a three week period must consult a doctor immediately:
- Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating
- Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently
- Change in bowel habits
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Unexpected weight loss or weight gain around the abdomen
Early diagnosis helps in improving chance of survival. When the cancer is confined to the ovary then up to 90% of women are likely to survive for maybe more than five years, under specialized treatment. Women with symptoms of ovarian cancer should find a specialist so that an accurate diagnosis is made. Later they should go to a gynecologic oncologist who would be the best expert to manage the disease.
Most times ovarian cancer gets diagnosed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. Many women delay seeking help in the false belief that the symptoms are related to their period, menopause or other ailments. With modern day tests and examinations it is possible to arrive at well deduced diagnosis. It is to be remembered that a cervical smear test or Pap test does NOT detect ovarian cancer. It only detects pre-cancerous changes to the cervix that is treated more successfully than ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women, worldwide, and is the most serious gynecological cancer. For women without a family history, the biggest risk factor is age. It therefore becomes essential to talk to doctors to determine personal risks. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer requires genetic counseling. This is really important and we can show our love, support to women we cherish in our homes – mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and friends.
Every woman in the world is at risk of developing ovarian cancer, the most serious gynecologic cancer. May 8 is therefore the day to spread the word on World Ovarian Cancer Day to provide an opportunity to raise awareness of this disease. HERD Foundation joins in this global movement to ensure all the women know about ovarian cancer.