BHealthy Blog

Ovarian Cancer, A Silent Disease that Can be Prevented

Dr. Patrick Lang, Baptist Health Urogynecology Clinic.

Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumor that can affect one or two ovaries. According to the American Cancer Association, a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer throughout her lifetime is 1 in 78. 

Ovarian cancer is considered to be a silent disease because symptoms can often go unnoticed. Take time to learn more about the possible causes of ovarian cancer, symptoms, diagnosis, and what you can do to prevent it.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a genetic disease caused by a cellular error or cell alteration that leads to abnormal or uncontrolled cell growth. When cells have abnormal growth, they can become benign or cancerous tumors. If not detected in the early stages, cancer cells can spread from the ovaries and continue to other organs, which could lead to death.

The causes of this type of cancer are not yet known. Though ovarian cancer can be attributed to a genetic issue, such as a mutation in the BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genes, or if there is a history of cancer of the breast, ovary, colon, or endometrium as a result of family genetics. 

Factors that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer are: 

  • Aging, especially after the menopause
  • Being overweight or obese, women with a high BMI (30) are more prone to develop cancer.
  • Women who were pregnant after 35 or have never had a pregnancy
  • Use of estrogen after the menopause stage
  • Smoking

What are the Most Common Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Initially, this type of cancer often may not have any symptoms. As ovarian cancer is more developed, some signs may include nausea, pelvic swelling, and weight loss. Other patients may experience bloating or abdominal distention, digestive disorders or poor digestion, and difficulty urinating or defecating. 

How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of ovarian cancer can be made through different methods such as imaging, ultrasound, gynecological examination with a pelvic exam, or radiological tests.

What are the Recommendations to Prevent It?

Some people with a family history of the cancer-predisposing mutation have a higher chance of developing ovarian cancer later in life, and preventive procedures such as removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes are recommended if they no longer want to have more children or are close to menopause.

Unlike other women, if they are considering surgical interventions for contraception such as ligation and removal of the fallopian tubes, it could be a method of preventing the incidence of ovarian cancer. It is also worth mentioning that hormonal contraceptives may protect against ovarian cancer more effectively.

Finally, an essential aspect of prevention is eating a healthy diet, exercising, reducing foods such as red meat and dairy, and maintaining proper weight.

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with one of our Baptist Health primary care providers. Getting preventive tests and ruling out the odds is the first step in taking care of your health. Treatment will depend on the type of problem you may have.