Ovarian cancer in Nigeria is one of the major causes of fatality among gynecological cancers. This is largely because of non-specific warning symptoms and ineffective screening methods. But the question is this, what is ovarian cancer, and what are its causes and symptoms?
We plan to provide clear answers to this question in this post. Why not join us on this interesting and enlightening journey into the world of ovarian cancer?
Ovarian Cancer – Brief Overview
This type of cancer starts its lifecycle in the ovaries. As you know, there are two ovaries in a woman’s reproductive system. They are very similar to almonds in size and they produce eggs, progesterone, and estrogen.
It is very difficult to detect ovarian cancer. This is why it is mostly undetected until it spreads to the abdomen and pelvis. Just like other kinds of cancers, it is difficult to treat at this stage. It is always easier to overcome ovarian cancer if it is detected early. Two of the major treatment methods used are chemotherapy and surgery.
In most cases, people do not even notice any signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer in the early stages. Sometimes, the disease remains hidden as it advances. It is possible to confuse the symptoms for other simpler health problems like constipation.
Because of this, ovarian cancer is nicknamed the silent disease. Knowing the symptoms makes it easy to find the disease and begin treatment early enough. These are the most common ovarian cancer symptoms:
- Belly or pelvic pain.
- Difficulty in eating or feeling full too early.
- Feeling the urgent need to pee frequently.
We should tell you at this point that other conditions can lead to these symptoms. How then can you be sure it is not ovarian cancer? Look at the frequency of these problems as well as their intensity. The more frequent and intense they are, the more concerned you should be.
Advanced ovarian cancer symptoms
As the condition advances, you will begin to notice several other symptoms. Some of the common ones include:
- Quick fatigue.
- Pain while having sex.
- Back pain.
- Heartburn or stomach upset.
- Swelling around the belly.
- Involuntary weight loss.
- Unusual discharge or bleeding from the vagina, mostly after menopause.
Again, we should remind you that these symptoms can also result from other conditions. So when you see them, you shouldn’t conclude that it is ovarian cancer. Instead, reach out to your physician and run some tests.
Just as it is unclear when ovarian cancer begins, not much is known about the cause. What doctors can tell are the risk factors leading to this condition.
According to research, this condition begins with mutations in the DNA of cells. These mutations result in rapid growth and multiplication of the cell. The result of this is a tumor or mass of abnormal cells.
Normally, cells are meant to die after a period. However, these abnormal cells keep living after healthy ones die. They end up invading tissues that are close by. Ultimately, they break off from the original tumor and spread to other parts of the body.
Types of Ovarian Cancer
There are several types of ovarian cancers depending on the originating cell. Let’s take a quick look at the different types:
- Epithelial tumors – This type begins with the thin tissue layer covering the external part of the ovaries. A little over 90 percent of all ovarian cancers fall under this category.
- Stromal tumors – This cancer begins within the hormone-producing cells of the ovarian tissue. It is easier to diagnose this type of cancer early. Close to 7 percent of all ovarian cancers fall into this category.
- Germ cell tumors – They begin with the egg-producing cells. Germ cell tumors are very rare and occur more in younger women.
Risk factors of ovarian cancer
Like we said earlier, it is very difficult to pinpoint the cause of ovarian cancer. However, doctors have identified certain risk factors that contribute to this disease. Let’s take a brief look at some of the major risk factors of ovarian cancer.
- Age – Older women, especially those between 50 and 60 years, are at more risk. Despite this fact, ovarian cancer can occur at any age.
- Inherited gene mutations – A very little percentage of ovarian cancers result from inherited gene mutations. The genes in question are known as “Breast Cancer Gene 1 (BRCA1) and “Breast Cancer Gene 2 (BRCA2). Both genes are also risk factors for breast cancer.
- Family history – People that have two or more relatives (close) who have suffered from ovarian cancer are more at risk.
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy – This puts a woman at higher risk of ovarian cancer, especially when it is in large doses on long-term use.
- Age when menstruation began and ended – When a woman began menstruation early or starts menopause later than usual, she is more at risk of ovarian cancer.
Preventing Ovarian Cancer
It is quite difficult to pinpoint the best way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk. Some of them include:
- Birth control pills – It is important to first speak to your doctor if birth control pills are good for you or not. Studies show that women that take oral contraceptives are at lesser risk of ovarian cancer. It is also important to note that oral contraceptives also present other kinds of risks. So before you take them, weigh your options properly.
- Discuss risk factors with your doctor – We have discussed the major risk factors of ovarian cancer above. Discuss these risk factors with your doctor, especially family history. This will help you determine the next set of steps to take. Your doctor may refer you to other professionals like a genetic counselor for help.
In this post, we have discussed ovarian cancer in Nigeria causes and symptoms. We hope that this post has been enlightening for you. What other causes and symptoms of ovarian cancer do you know?