Ovarian cancer-how do you reduce your risk?
Ovarian cancer is the most deadly reproductive cancer—it killed about 14,000 women in 2014.
Over 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer per year according to the American Cancer Society.
Who is more at risk?
Women who are are over age 50 and past the menopausal stage are more at risk. More than half of the cases are women over 65 years old.
Although it is uncommon for younger women to get ovarian cancer, there are several instances where this occurs; more than 1,000 women under the age of 50 get ovarian cancer every year.
“I had tumors on both ovaries,” she says, “and cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and surrounding tissues.” It took multiple surgeries over the course of two years to remove the cancerous tissue.
“I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m cancer-free,” she says. “Now that I’m five years out, I’m trying to think of it as a positive thing and what can I learn from it. And if I can create more awareness, I’ll do it.”
Family history is also a huge risk factor. Your doctor can order tests for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation to see if you had a relative with ovarian cancer. Other factors are below.
If a woman is overweight
There is a study that found that women who have a body mass index (BMI) above 28 have a higher risk of developing the disease, even without the family history.
A healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Using talcum powder
If you don’t have a family history of ovarian cancer the risk is two percent. If you are using talcum powder the risk could be five in two hundred.
The powder applied on the legs or near the vagina can travel into the vagina to the cervix and into the womb and the fallopian tubes, then enter the ovaries.
The risk is small, but it’s better to avoid using it in the leg area, butt region, or anywhere near the vagina.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a silent killer for a reason. The signs and symptoms aren’t obvious. Unlike breast cancer, symptoms are usually aren’t easy to detect.
1. Acute abdominal or pelvic pain
If you have persistent pain in the abdominal area or on your pelvis, this symptom could definitely be mistaken as dysmenorrhea. However, this symptom could mean that cancer has spread to other areas.
Ovarian cancer affects the bowels as it moves it up and that causes nausea.
Also, you will feel full sooner than usual. The stomach has less space than before because it has a growing tumor inside of it and there may also be fluid build-up.
3. Constipation and bloating
If you have ovarian cancer, you will feel fuller longer because your bowels are not working properly; the lack of bowel muscular function doesn’t push things through.
If you didn’t change anything in your diet or routine and you suddenly feel bloated and constipated for days, it’s best to go see a doctor.
4. Frequent urination
Ovarian cancer makes you pee frequently. Having little room in the ovaries when a tumor is there, it decreases the amount the bladder can handle and, therefore, it needs to be emptied frequently.
5. Irregular periods
Having a tumor in your ovary will disrupt the regular cycle of your periods. Always check in with your doctor if you experience irregularities.
6. Painful intercourse
Ovarian cancer makes sex a painful experience. The tumor in the pelvis is colliding with the vagina, which causes sexual intercourse to be painful.
Hormonal changes could also be a factor that can lead to vaginal dryness.
7. Heartburn and acid reflux
Just like a pregnant woman, something is inside your body. It’s messing with the bowels, pushing everything up against your stomach to the esophagus, which brings up all of the stomach acids.
How do you cut the risk of ovarian cancer?
1. Know your genes
Find out if you have family members or relatives that have or had ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer. Get tested if you are carrying “the unlucky gene” because if you are, there’s a 50-100 percent chance for you to be at risk.
If you find out that one of your relatives has or had cancer, note the timing of when your relative was diagnosed. The earlier the diagnosis and the more relatives have had it, the stronger your family history is.
Talk to a genetic counselor. Your doctor can order tests such as mammograms or colonoscopies. There’s no way to know for sure if you will get cancer but the likelihood is high if you have someone in your family who has it.
2. Lessen your consumption of alcohol
Red wine is popular for its antioxidants that fight cancer and promote longer life. A single glass of wine is probably good but studies show that women who consume more alcohol increase their risk of cancer by 40%.
Alcohol increases estrogen production and higher estrogen in the body poses a greater risk for cancer.
3. Take folic acid
It turns out that alcohol, when consumed in high amounts, converts into a carcinogen that harms the DNA cells.
Folic acid repairs the damage in the cells after drinking alcohol and helps if you drink more than one glass a day.
At least 30 minutes of exercise a day for 5 days a week is optimal to reduce the risk of cancer. It reduces the insulin growth factors in the body which causes tumors to grow faster.
It also strengthens the immune system which destroys cancerous cells.
4. Eat your vegetables
You probably already know that fruits and green leafy veggies are rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals.
It strengthens your defenses against cancer.
The deeper the color of the fruits and vegetables, the more antioxidants they contain, for example berries, kale, spinach, etc.