- Posted by jdavis on August 24, 2011
Several factors appear to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. They include:
Oral contraception (birth control pills). Compared with women who’ve never used them, women who use oral contraceptives for three years or more reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 30 percent to 50 percent.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Having at least one child lowers your risk of developing ovarian cancer. Breast-feeding a child for a year or longer also may reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.
Tubal ligation or hysterectomy. The Nurses’ Health Study, which followed thousands of women for 20 years, found a substantial reduction in ovarian cancer risk in women who had had tubal ligations. The procedure also has been shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk among women with mutations in the BRCA1 gene. How the procedure reduces risk is uncertain. The Nurses’ Health Study also indicated that having a hysterectomy may reduce ovarian cancer risk, but not by as much as does tubal ligation.
Prophylactic oophorectomy may be recommended for women who are at very high risk of developing ovarian cancer. This procedure, surgical removal of the ovaries, may be performed on women who have tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation or women who have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer even if no genetic mutation has been identified. Studies indicate that prophylactic oophorectomy lowers ovarian cancer risk by up to 95 percent, and reduces the risk of breast cancer by up to 50 percent, if the ovaries are removed before menopause However, because ovarian cancer usually develops in the thin lining of the abdominal cavity that covers the ovaries, women who have had their ovaries removed can still get a similar but less common form of cancer called primary peritoneal cancer. In addition, prophylactic oophorectomy is controversial because it induces early menopause, which in itself may have a negative impact on your health, including an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and other conditions. If you’re considering having this procedure done, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are nonspecific and mimic those of many other more common conditions, including digestive and bladder disorders. It isn’t unusual for a woman with ovarian cancer to be diagnosed with another condition before finally learning she has cancer. The key seems to be persistent or worsening signs and symptoms. With most digestive disorders, symptoms tend to come and go, or they occur in certain situations or after eating certain foods. With ovarian cancer, there’s typically little fluctuation — symptoms are constant and gradually worsen.
Recent studies have shown that women with ovarian cancer are more likely than are other women to consistently experience the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
- Urinary urgency
- Pelvic discomfort or pain
Additional signs and symptoms that women with ovarian cancer may experience include:
- Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
- Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
- Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
- A persistent lack of energy
- Low back pain
Doctors can usually diagnose ovarian cancer within three months of women first noticing symptoms, but sometimes it may take six months or longer before a diagnosis can be made.