Monthly Health with Heartlands Hospital
Each year, about 7000 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The cause of cancer of the ovary is unknown. However, it is more common in women who have not had children; although the risk is still very low. Most ovarian cancers occur in women who have had their menopause.
Ovarian cancer usually presents with quite vague symptoms – for example pain in the lower abdomen or side or a bloated, full feeling in the abdomen. It can often be diagnosed by performing an ultrasound scan of the pelvis.
Some factors are known to affect a woman’s chance of developing ovarian cancer:
* Women who take the contraceptive pill are less likely to develop this type of cancer.
* Stimulation of the ovary by the drugs used during infertility treatment can slightly increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
* Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can slightly increase the risk.
* A small number of ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited faulty gene in the family. If any of the following are present in your family it is possible that there may be an inherited faulty gene:
* ovarian cancer in two close relatives (mother, sister or daughters), or one close relative with ovarian cancer and one close relative with breast cancer diagnosed when they were under the age of 50, or
* Ovarian cancer in one close relative and breast cancer in two family members diagnosed when they were under the age of 60, or
* Three relatives with colon (bowel) cancer, one diagnosed under the age of 50, and one relative with ovarian cancer.
Women who are worried that they may have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, because of cancer in their family, can be referred by their GP to a genetic counseling clinic. If there are no other members of your family affected with ovarian cancer then having a distant aunt with ovarian cancer does not actually increase your risk. If you are still worried you should go and talk about this to your GP.
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