News Around The World
martes, 29 de marzo de 2011
10 things every woman MUST know about ovarian cancer
It's known as the 'silent killer' but now campaigners are trying to make a big noise about one of our most common cancers. Here we reveal the facts that could help you avoid it
FACT 1:This is the fifth most common cancer in women
Although ovarian cancer is technically classed as a rare cancer (the common ones are breast, bowel, lung and prostate) it still affects around 6,700 women each year in the UK.
Risk varies from woman to woman and depends on how old you are, your genes and your lifestyle.
A woman has a one in 50 chance of developing the disease over her lifetime, according to charity Target Ovarian Cancer. But the risk rises as you get older, with four in five cases occurring after the age of 50.
It’s a bigger threat than cervical cancer
We’ve all heard of cervical cancer, thanks to NHS screening using the smear test.
No wonder a survey by Target Ovarian Cancer found that nearly half of women think cervical cancer is more of a threat than ovarian cancer.
Sadly, this isn’t true. Ovarian cancer kills around 4,500 women a year compared to just under 1,000 cervical cancer deaths.
The reason cervical cancer deaths are so low is because most women go for regular smears – Cancer Research UK estimates the test saves 4,500 lives a year.
some early symptoms
It was thought that symptoms didn’t show themselves until the cancer had become advanced. But it’s now known this isn’t the case.
Research shows that women do get symptoms in the early stages of the disease but a lack of awareness along with the fact that symptoms are quite general means they’re often missed until it’s too late.
In 2008, the NHS National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative identified the top three symptoms of ovarian cancer as:
Persistent pelvic or stomach pain.
Increased tummy size and persistent bloating as opposed to bloating that comes and goes.
Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly on most days.
Less common symptoms are:
The need to wee suddenly or more often.
Changes in bowel habit, for instance constipation or diarrhoea.
Feeling tired all the time.
But a survey by Ovarian Cancer Action revealed that 80% of women would not recognise any of these signs.
Consultant gynaecology oncologist Dr Khalil Razvi of Southend University Hospital advises: “See your GP if you have persistent symptoms for four weeks or longer. Chances are it’s not ovarian cancer but any symptoms, especially pain, that last this long needs to be investigated. And if it does turn out to be ovarian cancer, the sooner you’re diagnosed and treated, the better your survival chances.”
More than 70%
survive – if it’s caught early
If it’s diagnosed in the early stages, the good news is that more than 70% of women will survive this disease. But at the moment we have the worst survival rate in Europe – two-thirds of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer won’t survive beyond five years.
Knowing the symptoms is crucial – if you’re worried, keep track of yours with Ovarian Cancer Action’s new online symptoms diary. Fill it in and take it along to your GP.
It may be mistaken for IBS
GPs have often been accused of not being sufficiently aware of ovarian cancer symptoms. Indeed, in 2009 the Pathfinder Study for Target Ovarian Cancer found that three-quarters of them were not familiar with Department of Health guidelines on symptoms and diagnosis.
“I think GPs are becoming more aware of early symptoms, but there’s a constant stream of new research coming out on so many conditions,” says Dr Razvi. “The average GP will only see one case of ovarian cancer every five years. Another problem is that the symptoms are also symptoms for a wide range of illnesses, so ovarian cancer may not be the first thing that comes to mind.”
It’s often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects one in five women, as well as side effects of hormone replacement therapy.
Dr Razvi says: “Don’t be afraid to ask your GP if he or she has considered the possibility of cancer if your symptoms are similar to those established by the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative.”
See FACT 3
It doesn’t just
Although most women who develop ovarian cancer are over 50, certain types can affect women as young as 20.
“In this case, symptoms are more likely to be mistaken for other gynaecological problems, like fibroids or endometriosis,” says Dr Razvi. You’re more likely to develop it young if you have two or more close relatives who’ve had ovarian or breast cancer, which may be linked to specific genetic faults.
This is more common in women of Jewish, Polish, Icelandic and Pakistani descent and more significant the younger they were when they developed the cancers.
“If you’re concerned about your family history, tell your GP who can refer you to a genetics clinic for an assessment,” says Dr Razvi.
However, it’s important to note that nine out of 10 ovarian cancers have nothing to do with genes.
A clear smear does not rule it out
The smear test is designed solely to pick up cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer and has nothing to do with ovarian cancer. However, a 2007 survey by Target Ovarian Cancer suggested that up to half of all women wrongly believe that a clear smear test means they’re free from ovarian cancer, too.
The Pill lowers your risk
This is good news for women who’ve taken the combined oral contraceptive pill for five or more years.
“Research shows that after five years, it reduces risk by nearly 30%, with benefits lasting up to 30 years afterwards,” says Dr Razvi.
After 15 years of taking the Pill, risk is reduced by half, according to Cancer Research UK.
“This is thought to be because being on the Pill stops ovulation. We also know that the risk of ovarian cancer is lower in women who’ve had children than those who haven’t. The more children a woman has, and the longer she breastfeeds for, the lower her risk.
“One theory is that ovulation may damage the lining of the ovaries so the less often a woman ovulates, the less damage to her ovary lining. However it hasn’t been proven,” says Dr Razvi.
Fighting the flab will reduce your risk
Obese women who’ve passed the menopause are up to 80% more likely to get ovarian cancer, according to a study in the US.
Aim for a waist size below 32 inches and preferably below 30. This will also substantially reduce your risk of other conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Some research suggests that regular exercise reduces risk of ovarian, breast and bowel cancers, though this could be partly because it helps keep your weight under control.
One large Scandinavian study showed women who exercised for at least four hours a week reduced their risk by more than two-thirds.
Scientists are working on a screening test
At the moment there’s no screening programme for ovarian cancer.
But a clinical trial into the potential benefits is now being carried out on 200,000 women
Keep an eye out for the results, which are due in 2014.
ovarian cancer symptoms
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