In 2018, the Cancer Journal for Clinicians reported 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer with 14,000 of those cases proving to be fatal. Although ovarian cancer accounts for only three percent of cancer among women, the death ratio is alarming.
Meanwhile in Malaysia, ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women (breast cancer being the first followed by colorectal and cervical cancers). In a speech earlier this year, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad estimates 60 percent of cancers were reported in the later stages, complicating treatments of the silent killer.
According to the Malaysian Cancer Registry, the disease is more common amongst the Chinese population as compared to their Malay and Indian counterparts with peak incidences occurring at ages 60 to 65.
Like many other cancers, there is not a specific cause for it but the risks can increase depending on age, genetics, and the use of fertility treatments. Older women are more likely to develop ovarian cancer whereas those with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer are also more likely to develop the disease.
Another alarming fact is that the symptoms go unnoticed, especially in the early stages. By the time a diagnosis is made, it could already be too late.
Once the cancer has reached its later stages, treatment begins to be difficult.
The earlier the cancer is detected, the less extensive the treatments will be. According to Mayo Clinic, ovarian cancer can be diagnosed through pelvic exams, imaging tests, blood tests and in some cases, surgery.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- Frequent urination and loss of appetite are ovarian cancer red flags.
- There are four stages of ovarian cancer with stage IV being when the cancer has spread to other organs including the spleen and liver.
- There are more than 30 types of ovarian cancer categorised by the type of cell they developed from.
- Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a low-fat diet can decrease your risk of ovarian cancer (and many other diseases too!)