This Article is From May 08, 2023

World Ovarian Cancer Day 2023: Expert Explains Reasons Behind Asymptomatic Ovarian Cancer

World Ovarian Cancer Day is observed on May 8 every year. "No Woman Left Behind," is the theme assigned for 2023.

World Ovarian Cancer Day 2023: Expert Explains Reasons Behind Asymptomatic Ovarian Cancer

World Ovarian Cancer Day: This cancer is often referred as a silent killer

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the ovaries and is a significant health concern for women. It's important to highlight that many women with ovarian cancer don't experience any symptoms at all. It ranks as the third most common cancer in women in India, after breast and cervical cancer, causing more fatalities than any other gynaecological cancer. The absence of symptoms during the early stages of ovarian cancer presents significant obstacles in its prompt diagnosis, often leading to advanced-stage detection and reduced treatment effectiveness, ultimately resulting in lower survival rates. Therefore, addressing the challenges and burden associated with early detection requires a two-fold approach: increasing awareness among women and improving access to healthcare services.

Here's why many women who have ovarian cancer do not experience symptoms at all

1. Hidden location: The ovaries are located deep within the pelvis, resulting in small tumours going unnoticed until they grow or spread

2. Mimicking other conditions: Ovarian cancer can spread to neighbouring pelvic organs, such as the bladder or rectum, causing symptoms mistakenly associated with other conditions

3. Nonspecific symptoms: Abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, and similar symptoms are not unique to ovarian cancer and can be attributed to various causes

4. Subtype variations: Certain ovarian cancer subtypes, such as germ cell tumours or stromal tumours, may remain asymptomatic until reaching a considerable size

The importance of regular screening for ovarian cancer

Regular check-ups play a vital role in the early detection and effective management of ovarian cancer. Given the challenges associated with diagnosing ovarian cancer in its early stages, regular gynaecological check-ups and for doctors to perform pelvic exams, especially for women who are at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer are crucial tools for identifying the disease before symptoms manifest.

The most common screening tests for ovarian cancer include a rectovaginal pelvic exam and a CA-125 blood test. These tests help to understand the cause behind the unexplained signs or symptoms. Similarly, transvaginal ultrasounds may detect abnormalities that require further investigation. Screening is recommended for females with inherited risks like BRCA 1, BRCA 2, or mismatch repair gene repair mutations.

Women with a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or colorectal cancer, those with a personal history of endometriosis, cancer, or a genetic mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, those who are obese, those who smoke and those who have undergone hormone therapy after menopause are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. It is crucial for women falling into these categories to discuss their risk with a doctor and seek regular consultations. Regular check-ups aid in the early detection of ovarian cancer, enabling close monitoring and personalized risk assessment for high-risk individuals, and facilitating timely intervention and preventive measures.

The treatment options for ovarian cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, or a combination of both. If a person experiences any early warning signs of ovarian cancer, prompt medical attention is necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment. Even if it is not ovarian cancer, a proper diagnosis and treatment are essential.

A comprehensive approach to ovarian cancer detection

In addition to regular check-ups, a comprehensive approach to ovarian cancer detection involves a combination of factors such as - raising awareness among women about the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer crucial. Educating women about the nonspecific symptoms associated with the disease, such as abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, and urinary urgency or frequency, can encourage them to seek medical attention promptly.

Additionally, doctors need to be vigilant and consider the possibility of ovarian cancer while evaluating patients with these symptoms. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing risk factors can contribute to reducing the incidence of ovarian cancer. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are important lifestyle choices that can help lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

By promoting early detection, risk reduction, and timely access to care, we can strive to overcome the challenges associated with diagnosing ovarian cancer in its early stages and ultimately improve the prognosis and well-being of women affected by this disease.

(Dr. Sabhyata Gupta, Chairperson, Gynaecology and Gynae Oncology, Medanta, Gurugram)

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