Ovarian cancer is an enemy you can’t easily defeat.
At first glance, it seems nothing’s wrong with our bodies. Most of the time, we fail to become more sensitive to its needs and what it’s been telling us.
In school, we have an annual medical check-up to examine if there’s any mass through abdominal press or palpation. With negative test results, we tend to be more confident and disregard the possibility of having a tumor or cancer.
Unfortunately, as an ovarian cancer survivor, those tests in our school weren’t enough.
Visit Your OBGYN
Each time I’m invited as a guest speaker in one of the cancer forums in our place, I often advise female guests, especially students, to visit an obstetrician-gynecologist once a year for a medical checkup.
I always tell them not to worry about what people will say about such visit as it’s not like you’re getting a medical checkup for your bun in the oven.
Instead, they must treat it the same way as their bi-annual visit to their dentist for teeth maintenance.
In the Philippines, where I live in, Filipinos have this perception that if a single lady visits an OB-GYN clinic, they presume that she’s either pregnant or wanted to get rid of her unborn child.
But, based on my experience, this kind of mindset is just too unreasonable. This is because no matter what the case is, be it pregnancy, abortion or a disease, those people don’t matter.
Thus, I highly recommend you to go out there and visit your doctor and don’t mind what they’ve to say about you (unless they’ll be the one to pay for the doctor’s fee). It’s your body, not theirs.
Diagnosed to Have Ovarian Cancer
A few months before I was diagnosed with having ovarian cancer (OC), I didn’t feel any change in my body.
I was slim. I played sports. I ate a lot.
But little did I know, OC was already lurking in my body, waiting for my defense team to weaken.
Then, the signs appeared.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer that I ignored
The first thing that my mom noticed (but I didn’t) was my growing lower-abdomen.
She advised me to go and have it checked with an OB. But because of fear and, perhaps, ignorance, I just shrugged it off and told her that it could be a sign that my Aunt Flow (menstruation) is near.
Bummer! That was a mistake.
The second sign was periodic yet extreme abdominal pain.
Because it was just sporadic, I thought it was LBM and not menstrual cramps. But for some patients with same cancer as I have, they considered abdominal pain with vaginal bleeding as alarming.
The third sign I noticed was the on-and-off fever that lasted more than a week.
I thought it was just caused by the bad weather, so I just took an OTC med.
Then, there came a sudden weight loss, even though I wasn’t dieting.
This, by the way, is one of the most common signs to most cancer patients. From 54 kilos, it went down to 42 kilos in merely two weeks.
No diet pills.
No extreme exercise.
If I were a contestant of “The Biggest Loser,” I’d probably win.
Despite all these changes, I failed to have my body checked. I didn’t realize that my case was getting serious.
Regrets… regrets of ignoring the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
If only I visited a doctor and sought medical treatment, then my cancer would not have gone to the point that I needed to undergo operation to remove my ovaries.
Yes, I could have prevented it if I only listened to my body.
So, I’ll be leaving you with this one piece of advice: “Listen to your body and get a medical check-up every now and then.”
When it’ll be caught sooner, you can prevent it from worsening.
Take it from me.
Risk Factors to Increase the Chances of Having Ovarian Cancer
Although there are several possible causes of ovarian cancer, they are not fully understood. But here are some risk factors that increase your chances of developing this type of cancer.
As you get older, the risk of developing it also increases. It’s especially true for women over 50. More than half the cases of this cancer are women who are over 65 years old.
It’s not common for younger women to develop this cancer. But there are cases of ovarian cancer in premenopausal women. For that reason, you must be aware of the symptoms of this cancer. And if you have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you should talk to your doctor if you think that something’s wrong.
Ovarian cancer is not inherited since the majority of ovarian cancer cases are sporadic. Then again, 20% of cases are said to be caused by an inherited mutated gene. If you inherited a faulty copy of the BRCA2 or BRCA1 gene, then you’re likely to develop this type of cancer.
That said, if there are more cases of this cancer on either your mother or father’s side of the family, you should consult your doctor. You may need to undergo genetic testing to find out if you have inherited the mutated gene.
If you are obese without a family history of ovarian cancer, your risk increases to 2.24%. However, if you start to live a healthy lifestyle, you’re likely to reduce your risk of developing it. You should be aware of your BMI. And consider reducing your weight if your BMI is over 28.
Taking HRT can increase your risk of developing this cancer by up to 40%. However, this risk must be weighed against the benefits of hormone replacement therapy.
Some studies suggest that women with this condition are likely to develop ovarian cancer. However, the level of risk fluctuates. You should talk to your physician about it.
You’ll not only develop lung cancer but you’re likely to develop ovarian cancer if you smoke. Some types of ovarian cancer are said to be associated with tobacco smoke. But other types are not linked to smoking.
Diabetics are also at risk of developing this cancer. The risk is higher if you are taking insulin.
Is It Possible to Lower the Risk of Experiencing Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
The causes of ovarian cancer are not fully understood as mentioned earlier. That’s why it’s not easy to identify the ways to help reduce your risk of developing this cancer.
Doctors are saying that any woman who has ovaries is at risk of ovarian cancer. But there are lifestyle factors that can help in reducing your risk.
Having a weekly exercise regimen can help lower your risk of having this malignant disease. You should also follow a healthy diet to further decrease your chances of developing ovarian cancer.
Exercising doesn’t have to be intense. But you must work out at least 30 minutes per day. You should also aim to have an active lifestyle and eat only foods that can decrease your risk. These foods would include nuts, eggs, and beans. Consider consuming foods high in Vitamin D and Vitamin A.
Use of Oral Contraceptives
If you have a history of using oral contraceptives, then your chances of developing ovarian cancer are down to 50%. The longer you used it, the lower your risk will be.
But just because oral contraceptives can help to lower your risk, it doesn’t mean that you should use them as well. You need to consult your physician first as this type of medication isn’t for everyone.
Tubal ligation and hysterectomy are gynecologic surgical procedures that can reduce the likelihood of you developing a type of ovarian cancer. However, they must only be performed for medical reasons.
If you’ll undergo hysterectomy for a medical reason and you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, then your physician may recommend removing your ovaries and fallopian tubes as well. Then again, it’s not for everyone.
You should talk to your doctor about your risks and benefits of removing your ovaries. Another option is to remove the fallopian tubes and the uterus. This option may also reduce ovarian cancer risk.
Consult your physician about these procedures.
Is There a Vaccine to Prevent Ovarian Cancer?
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer vaccines are only available in clinical trials. They are a type of immunotherapy that increases germ-fighting immune function to fight against cancer cells.
Researchers are looking for ways to use these vaccines in training the immune system cells to attack cancer cells that may reappear after completing the first treatment of this cancer.
But the studies about ovarian cancer vaccines are conducted in a small number of participants. Researchers require larger studies to evaluate their potential role in preventing the reappearance of ovarian cancer.
Screening for Ovarian Cancer
There are several tests conducted to develop a screening test for this type of cancer. Unfortunately, no tests have been successful so far. Transvaginal ultrasound and CA-125 blood tests could be used to screen for this type of cancer.
Are There Herbs to Kill Ovarian Cancer Cells?
Researchers are looking into the effects of ginger in killing cancer cells. They found that ginger may prevent resistance to cancer treatment.
In a study, scientists used ginger powder and water. They applied this mixture to ovarian cancer cells. In every test they made, cancer cells died because of the ginger solution. Researchers said that these cancer cells either died of apoptosis or suicide or they attacked themselves, also known as autophagy.
If it could cause autophagy and apoptosis, then ginger could prevent chemotherapy resistance.
However, more research is needed to know the effectiveness of the ginger solution in fighting against ovarian cancer cells.
Since there are no vaccines yet to prevent ovarian cancer, you should consider having a healthy lifestyle. By healthy lifestyle, it means that you must avoid tobacco products and alcohol. You should also get daily exercise and maintain a healthy diet.
Consider focusing on plant-based food.