Ovarian Cancer – can you easily identify the common symptoms?
This month is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and we would like to share some valuable information that may save your life or the life of someone you care about. Nurses you may also be able to refer to this information when you are providing Nursing Education. The reference source is Ovarian Cancer Australia
“The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Abdominal bloating and increased abdominal size
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Appetite loss, feeling full quickly or indigestion
- Urinary changes, such as frequency or urgency
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Unexplained fatigue
Most ovarian cancers start in the epithelial cells, which form the outer layer of tissue around the ovary. Many epithelial ovarian cancers may originate in the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus. The full name for this type of cancer is epithelial ovarian cancer, but it is usually referred to as just ovarian cancer.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is more common in women over 50 years of age. It can be divided into a number of subtypes, depending on how the cancer cells appear under the microscope, but these subtypes are all treated in the same way.
Other types of ovarian cancer:
- Borderline ovarian cancer, also called a low malignant potential tumour, is a less common type of epithelial ovarian cancer. This type of cancer tends to occur in young women and is mostly confined to the ovary.
- Ovarian germ cell tumours are a relatively rare type of ovarian cancer. These tumours begin in the reproductive (egg) cells in the ovary. They usually affect only 1 ovary and occur most often in young women, including teenage girls.
- Stromal (sex cord) tumours, which are also rare, start from structural tissues in the ovary that produce the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone
A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having 1 or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least 1 risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer include:
- a family history of ovarian cancer – the risk of developing ovarian cancer is higher if 1 or more blood relatives (such as mother, sister or daughter) has had ovarian cancer
- family history of breast or colon cancer
- a mutation in 1 of several known genes. Up to 15% of all cases of invasive ovarian cancer involve the inheritance of a mutated gene. Women who have inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have a substantially increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Women with Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer or HNPCC) also have an increased lifetime risk of ovarian cancer
- increasing age
- medical conditions such as endometriosis
- use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- tobacco smoking
Some factors reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer. These include:
- reproductive history – women who have had a full-term pregnancy before the age of 26 have a lower risk
- use of oral contraceptives (the pill) – women who have used oral contraceptives for at least 3 months have a lower risk
- gynaecological surgery – hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and tubal ligation (having your tubes tied) reduce the risk”
To access Ovarian Cancer Australia and their resources click here>>
I encourage every Nurse to take the time to refresh their Nursing Knowledge and Education on Ovarian Cancer . The Nurses for Nurses Network has a great Webinar recording by Alison Amos CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia or if you prefer there is a new Ovarian Cancer Quiz for you to complete.
The Nurses for Nurses Network has a great range of Nursing Education and Nursing activities . The sessions are focused on Nurses who need to know about Nursing Topics in the ‘real world’ where Nurses are often time poor and resource limited.