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Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers. When diagnosed early, the 5-year survival is greater than 92%. However, 60% of the women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes account for 10% of all epithelial ovarian cancers. These mutations are often found in families with a strong history of ovarian or breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, women in the general population have a 1.4 % (14 out of 1000) lifetime risk of getting ovarian cancer compared to a 15-40% lifetime risk of getting ovarian cancer (150-400 out of 1000) who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
Several factors have been associated with a decreased risk of ovarian cancer such as the use of oral contraceptives for 5 or more years, multiple pregnancies or having a full-term pregnancy before the age of 25, having a hysterectomy or having fallopian tubes tied, or removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. In women who have prophylactic removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries, primary peritoneal cancer can still occur but it is infrequent.
Research shows that women with ovarian cancer often report having the following symptoms: a swollen or bloated abdomen, persistent pressure or pain in the abdomen or pelvis, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, urinary urgency or frequency, change in bowel habits with new onset constipation and/or diarrhea, and unexplained vaginal bleeding.
Know The Symptoms
- Persistent bloating
- Swelling of abdomen
- Loss of appetite and feeling fuller
- Changes in bladder habits
- Changes in bowel habits
- Persistent indigestion and nausea
- Pelvic pain and abdominal discomfort
- Persistent lack of energy
- Low back pain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding/discharge
Know Your Facts
- Breast feeding and birth control pills significantly lower the risk of ovarian cancer
- First pregnancy after age 35 increases the risk of ovarian cancer
- Ovarian cancer occurs more often after menopause and incidence increases dramatically with age
- One or more close relatives with ovarian cancer or breast cancer at an early age could indicate an increase in your risk
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting the amount of saturated fat, to prevent ovarian cancer
There are no standard recommendations for screening for ovarian cancer. In the absence of test, awareness is best. So stay on top of your symptoms and lead a healthy life!
Living Your Best Life
Eat. Sleep. Be Happy. Repeat!
Set a routine bedtime/wake up time. Avoid daytime napping. Do not eat within 2 hours of bedtime. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Do not exercise within hour of bedtime. Do not “work” where you sleep. Do not watch TV, read, text, email where you sleep. Write down worries or distractions. Can’t sleep? Get up and do non-stimulating activity like reading. Good sleep at night will keep you refreshed and energized all day!
Reading is to mind what exercise is to body!
Exercise regularly! Take your child/pet for a brisk walk. Walk and talk, cell phones are great. Participate in your conference call while walking. Tune into fitness during TV time. Park and walk. Make it a competition to get farthest spot from the door! Take the stairs. Skip the cake, say goodbye to pie and take a walk after dinner. Get up earlier!
Stress: it is all in the attitude!
Learn to say “no”. Avoid hot-button topics. Pare down the “to do list”. Express your feelings appropriately and timely – rather than bottling up. Be willing to compromise. Be more assertive. Manage your time better. Plan ahead. Don’t over extend yourself. Focus on the positive. Look for the upside. Accept the things you cannot change. Share your feelings. Learn to Forgive.
Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding a disease, or fighting it!
Recent studies have revealed that there is no set requirement of water per day - you should drink when you are thirsty. The amount of water you need depends on your physical weight, level of physical activity that day, as well as your environmental conditions. Make sure to eat breakfast every day. Focus on having small frequent meals during the day. Remember, portion control is the way to go!
Ovarian Cancer: NO effective screening yet! Stay on top of symptoms!
Family & Friends Support
You carry out different roles every day. You may be a friend, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a boss, and a worker all at once. Each of these roles makes demands upon your time and energy. Fatigue and stress caused by your treatment may prevent you from duties that you once took for granted. If you are not able to meet these demands, you may feel guilty and become frustrated. You may not be able to do as much for your family as before. However, you still have a lot to offer through your love, your concern, and your friendship.
Because of your illness, your family and loved ones may try to protect you. Even though they mean well, you may feel like they are taking away your independence or your rights as an adult. After treatment, when you start feeling better, your loved ones may have become used to you in the role of a patient You may need to sit down together and discuss how to switch from the caretaker and sick person roles into your usual, more balanced roles.
While going through treatment, it is important to embrace, accept and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them — there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.
Few simple tips to mindfulness:
- Be right here, right now
- Practice 4-7-8 breathing: take a deep breath in for a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8
- Start practicing mindful eating: appreciate the aromas, colors, textures, and tastes of your food. Chew each bite carefully
- Practice simple meditation
Symptoms are subtle for ovarian cancer with majority of tumors detected when they have progressed to an advanced stage. We are working tirelessly to raise awareness about the risk factors and symptoms to impact early diagnosis. Timely detection is the key to cure!