September is Women’s Cancer Month and Ovarian Cancer Month. Let’s get real. This is serious. Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest of women’s cancers. It is silent and it kills. 1 in 70 women in the United States will be affected by ovarian cancer.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are hard to recognize. Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed late when it has developed, grown and spread, making it far more difficult to treat. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are often dull, obtuse and mimic other conditions. It is easy to ignore them or think it is not anything serious. It is easy to put off a visit to the doctor. Here is a list of the primary symptoms of ovarian cancer. Don’t ignore them. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, see your doctor for a complete exam. Two weeks. Find out. Don’t wait. See your gynecologist. If ovarian cancer is suspected see a gynecology oncologist (an oncologist specializing in women’s cancers)
Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
- First and foremost, if you have bleeding that is not normal for you, immediately see your doctor.
That means bleeding that is heavier, different in color and consistency or bleeding at the wrong time of the month.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pelvic Pressure or Pelvic Pain
- Abdominal Pain
- Low Back Pain
- Abdominal Bloating/Feeling full easily/Difficulty eating/Indigestion
- Change in bowel habits (a pattern that is not normal for you) and urinary habits (urgency, frequency)
- Discomfort with Intercourse
Primary Risk Factors For Ovarian Cancer Include
- Age: Women over 55 are more at risk
- Ethnic Background: White women in Europe and North America have increased risk. Ashkenazi Eastern European Jewish women have even higher risk.
- Family History: Having a family member with ovarian cancer accounts for 10% -15% of ovarian cancer diagnoses. Having a family member who has had breast, uterine, colon or rectal cancer also increases risk.
- Personal History: If you have a history of endometriosis may double or even triple your risk of ovarian cancer. You are also at increased risk if you have had or of breast, uterine, colon or rectal cancer.
- Genetics: Having mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes increases risk for the more aggressive forms of ovarian, breast and colorectal cancers..the most common cancers in women. More recent research has demonstrated that mutations in the genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and Lynch Syndrome, an inherited genetic condition with high incidence of colon, rectal and ovarian cancers.
- No pregnancies: Pregnancy and nursing give your ovaries a break. Women who have not borne children are more vulnerable
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: Menopausal women (whether going through menopausal naturally or due to illness, surgery or chemotherapy) who take estrogen replacement therapy are at increased risk.
- Fertility Drugs: There is some evidence that women who have taken fertility drugs which act on the ovaries may be at increased risk for ovarian problems later in life. For ovarian tumors overall and for borderline ovarian cancer, there was a two- to four-fold higher risk -respectively – in the IVF treatment group compared with the group not treated with IVF.
Additional Risk Factors
- Overweight, Overfat and Obese women are at increased risk
- Blood Sugar Issues: Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes increase risk of all women’s cancers
- Abnormal Sleep patterns
- Sedentary Life Style and lack of regular exercise. Just 30 minutes five days per week can lower cancer risk
Eat Your Broccoli: Broccoli, Kale and the cabbage family cruciferous vegetables are rich in phytochemicals called glucosinolates and sulphoraphanes that support normal detoxification, support normal estrogen metabolism and are known to reduce cancer risk. Many women supplement with sulphoraphane capsules along with including these vegetables in their diets.
Get Annual Gynecologic Exams: Ovarian cancer kills more than 15,000 Americans a year, and strikes another 22,000. Worldwide, more than 140,000 women died from the disease in 2008. Early diagnosis means your chances of survival are better.All women should have a gynecologic and pelvic exam once each year. A thorough exam includes a pap smear, a manual exam of your pelvic reproductive organs, a vaginal ultrasound, a breast exam (mammograms, breast MRI’s, self exams all save women’s lives.) Remember that PAP smears screen for cervical cancer but do NOT screen for ovarian cancer.
Vitamin D levels are linked to cancer risk. Low Vitamin D levels are correlated with higher rates of cancer. Women with ovarian cancer ovarian cancer cases were over three times as likely to have inadequate 25(OH)D3 levels. Ask your doctor to measure your blood level of Vitamin D3. Supplementation under the guidance of your health care provider may be indicated. Optimal levels are 55-80 ng/ml.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Scutellaria barbata has been studied at the Department of Gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco for its anti-cancer effects on interrupting the development, growth and progression on ovarian cancer cells and is used in many Chinese Herbal formulations for both breast and ovarian cancer.
CA-125 Tumor Marker There is an ovarian cancer tumor marker blood test called CA125. Whether or not is should be performed on a regular basis on all women is controversial. It is a marker that is followed closely once a woman has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Radical Choices: Some women with very high risk due to genetics and family history may choose to suppress their ovaries with birth control pills and other hormonal drugs such as Lupron. Some women choose to have their ovaries removed. These are radical and serious choices and must be made thoughtfully in concert with your physicians.
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Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
Cancer.net : Lynch Syndrome http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lynch-syndrome
Cancer morbidity in a cohort of 9175 Finnish women treated for infertilityHum Reprod (2012) 27(4): 1149-1155
Foundation for Women’s Cancer and Project Hope for Ovarian Cancer Research and Education
Gynecol Oncol. 2003 Nov;91(2):332-40. Aqueous extract of herba Scutellaria barbatae, a chinese herb used for ovarian cancer, induces apoptosis of ovarian cancer cell lines.Powell CB, Fung P, Jackson J, Dall’Era J, Lewkowicz D, Cohen I, Smith-McCune K. Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult with a professional health care provider as part of your decision making process regarding dietary, nutritional and botanical supplements, diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications