Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Risks and Protection Tips

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Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Risks and Protection Tips

Thousands of women are diagnosed every year with ovarian cancer making it vital that you be aware of the risk factors and related symptoms.

Nine out of ten cases of ovarian cancer are a specific type called epithelial ovarian cancer. While there are other forms of ovarian cancer, the information below will relate to the most common.

What are the causes of the development of a cancer?

There is a range of risk factors associated with developing ovarian cancer, the two most important being age and a family history of ovarian or breast cancer. The risk of development increases as a woman gets older with the highest risk levels for those aged over 50 that have already gone through menopause.

There have been instances where younger or pre-menopausal women have been diagnosed, which is why it is essential for everyone to be aware of the symptoms.

Your family history can also play a role; however, only 15 – 20 percent of diagnosed cases are believed to be caused by an inherited gene. If there are two or more cases of ovarian or breast cancer in your family, it would be best to speak to your GP to determine your level of risk.

Ovarian cancer awareness to lower the risk

There have been links between ovarian cancer and various lifestyle choice that, while small, increase the risk of being diagnosed, these can include:

  • Women with a body mass index (BMI) above 28 have been found to have a slightly higher risk of developing ovarian cancer
  • Talcum powder applied between the legs has been linked to ovarian cancer as it can change the cells of the ovaries if it enters the vagina (once again this increased risk is very small)
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to cope with menopause can create a slight increase however this should be weighed against the benefits of taking a treatment such as HRT
  • Endometriosis has been linked to an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer
  • Smoking can increase the risk of various cancers including ovarian cancer
  • Diabetes presents an increased risk of 20 – 25 percent

Protection tips

Some factors may reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer; however, are not a guaranteed way to prevent it, which is why you must remain vigilant about symptoms.

The following points can be considered to offer a higher level of protection against ovarian cancer:

  • The combined contraceptive pill can almost half the risk of ovarian cancer when it has been taken for over ten years. it is crucial to speak to your GP to weigh up the benefits of taking this form of contraceptive as it may present other possible health risks
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding can reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer as a decreased number of ovulatory cycles can lower the risk. In cases where a woman has had multiple pregnancies and breastfeeds, she will likely reduce the amount of time she ovulates, which helps to decrease the risk level.
  • Having a Hysterectomy in which the fallopian tubes are tied to avoid having any more children can reduce ovarian cancer risk. It is vital to note that the actual benefits of this are unclear as factors such as age can create varying effects. A hysterectomy combined with having the ovaries removed has been known to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer; however, once again, the benefits and risks associated should be considered.

Want to know more about your risk levels?

If you are worried about your risk levels, particularly in cases where a family history of ovarian cancer may be present, speak to a GP for an assessment.