Ovarian cancer fifth leading cause of mortality worldwide
September 20 2015 12:20 AM
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Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Women’s Hospital is observing Gynaecologic Cancer Awareness Month this September to raise awareness of gynaecologic cancers and highlight how they affect women.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five main types of cancer affect a woman’s reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. As a group, they are referred to as gynaecologic cancers. Each gynaecologic cancer is unique, with different signs, symptoms, and risk factors.
The CDC says women can lower their risk for some of these cancers by receiving human papillomavirus vaccine and getting screened for the cancers. It adds that when any of the cancers is found early, treatment works best.
Gynaecologic cancers impact women worldwide, accounting for 19% of the 5.1mn estimated new cancer cases each year, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Ovarian cancer has been identified to be the leading cause of death out of the gynaecological cancers, in Europe and the United States, and also the fifth leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. But, if found in its early stages, ovarian cancer is very much treatable.
“Ovarian cancer may cause one or more of these signs and symptoms: unusual feeling of fullness, bloating in the area below the stomach, pain in the pelvic or abdominal area; back pain; pain during sexual intercourse; abnormal bleeding and a change in bathroom habits such as having to pass urine urgently or very often, constipation, or diarrhea,” said Dr Afaf al-Ansari, senior consultant, gynaecological oncology at Women’s Hospital.
“The incidence of ovarian cancer increases with age, with the average age of diagnosis being 63. More than 70% of cases present with advanced disease because the symptoms are vague and non-specific, such as bloating, abdominal distention and early fullness,” explained Dr al-Ansari, highlighting that known risk factors for ovarian cancer are having a first child later in life, obesity, a menstrual cycle that started at a young age, a late menopause, genetic predisposition and certain
fertility drugs.
She explained that ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. “At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and can be fatal. Early-stage ovarian cancer, when the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated
successfully.”
“Early ovarian cancer often has no signs or symptoms, and any that exist are often mild, making this disease difficult to detect. If you think something is different or you detect changes in your body it may be that it is caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to see your doctor or go for regular check-up every two to three years,” Dr
al-Ansari advised.

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