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Being a woman myself, I can imagine how great it would be to receive news of being pregnant, or landing my dream job straight out of college. But what I can’t imagine is how it would feel to receive news from my doctor that I have been diagnosed ovarian cancer. For some, cancer may be a frightening diagnosis, but even more so if you are unfamiliar with what it truly is. It all begins within the cells of the body. Certain cells grow rampant, creating a growth of abnormal cells. These abnormal cells obtain damage to their DNA, making them unable to die like a healthy cell would. The damaged cells keep dividing, thus resulting in cancer. Roughly 22,000 women in the United States are living with ovarian cancer, and each year approximately 14,000 will fall victim to its deadly wrath.
Ovarian cancer begins with the ovaries of the uterus, which are a part of the female reproductive system that are responsible for releasing eggs, and hormones such as estrogen. The cancer generally develops within the ovary tissues, and can deviate into two different types of cancer. Ovarian epithelial carcinomas start within the surface of the ovary cells, while malignant germ cell tumors start within the cells of the ovary eggs. While there is no concrete evidence backing the causes of ovarian cancer, there are multiple theories out there. Researchers have found that in certain instances where the woman’s body is releasing less egg such as being on birth control, the chances of getting cancer are less likely. It is also believed that certain male hormones produce a greater risk for the development of ovarian cancer.
While it may be unclear what truly causes ovarian cancer, there are certain risk factors to be aware of. By knowing the risk factors involved in developing cancer, one can lower their likelihood of actually getting it. There are many risk factors involved with ovarian cancer, but the biggest one is age. The majority of ovarian cancers are found in women who have already gone through menopause, which generally occurs in the early to late fifties. It has been reported that half of all ovarian cancer cases have occurred in women who are sixty two and older. Another factor is certainly obesity. Extremely obese women are at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. These extremely obese women also have a higher potential to die from this cancer, compared to someone who is not obese. Women who have been taking fertility drugs for a year or more, and have been unsuccessful at bearing a child also put themselves at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer. Not having children alone is a risk factor, but put that on top of fertility drugs, and that risk increases greatly.
According to the American Cancer Society, roughly twenty percent of ovarian cancers are “found at an early stage.” And out of this twenty percent, ninety percent live an extended five or more years once the cancer has been detected. For a woman to know if she has ovarian cancer, it is important to visit the gynecologist on a regular basis. During these visits, the doctor will perform a pelvic exam to check out the internal organs. This alone is not fully successful at finding the cancer at an early stage, as it may be difficult for the doctor to detect simply with their hands if a tumor is present. At an early stage, the tumors may be deep within the tissues of the body. An imaging device such as an ultrasound may be more helpful in finding a tumor within the body. The ultrasound uses waves of sound to produce a photo on a tiny screen. This device will be able to either show if there is a collection of abnormal cells causing a lump within the pelvis, or detect different sound waves that could be given off my a possible tumor.
Our health is a very important thing. It is crucial to be aware of our bodies, and to know if something seems abnormal. If someone is experiencing symptoms such as an upset stomach or pressure in the pelvic region, pain during intercourse, or swelling of the abdomen, don’t ignore them. Our bodies are a sacred vessel. If something does not feel right, it won’t hurt to schedule an appointment and talk with a doctor. They will be able to put a name to your symptoms, and put your mind at ease. Educate yourself and you will find that things may not be as bad as you first thought!