March is the month we raise awareness of Ovarian cancer, discuss the symptoms, promote early diagnoses and raise important issues such as funding and inequalities.
More than 93% of women with ovarian cancer survive the disease for five years or more if caught early. Therefore, raising awareness about regular screening, early detection and education on reducing risk factors can help in the fight against cancer and save thousands of lives.
Reducing the risk of Ovarian Cancer
Prevention is better than cure, but it’s not as easy as you’d think for those in high-risk categories. Family history, menopause and age can mean a percentage of women are at a higher risk of suffering ovarian cancer than others. However, reducing the risks are the same for all women, although fundamental to those in the higher risk category.
Lower your risk for all cancers –
Maintaining a healthy weight – As with most health complications, fatty foods and poor diets increase cancer risk. Instead, keep a varied diet with plenty of natural nuts and leafy greens. The more colour on your plate, the better!
Keep fit – It’s age-old, but it’s true. Regular exercise decreases the risk of severe health conditions such as cancer. Thirty minutes a day, if just a brisk walk, will help you keep your health in check.
Avoid the bad stuff – Alcohol and tobacco are bad for you. We know that. So, avoid altogether or at least look at cutting down on the use of either. You’ll lower your risk of ovarian cancer as well as many other types of cancer.
Oral Contraceptives – Studies show women who have a history of taking contraceptives lower the risk of ovarian cancer by 50%. According to the study, the longer the oral contraceptive is taken, the lower the cancer risk.
Avoid Carcinogens – A carcinogen is an agent with the capacity to cause cancer in humans by inducing genetic mutations in our DNA cells. It is found naturally, like in the sun’s rays and plant cells. However, carcinogens can also be found in aerosols, car fumes, processed meat, tobacco and asbestos.
Protect yourself sexually – Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection can be contracted through unprotected sex and is a factor in the development of cervical cancer. You may also be of an age or have young teenagers eligible for the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is currently offered to all children 13 and up and has been proven to be an effective preventative vaccine against the nine most common strains of HPV.
Remember, there is no true prevention for cancer. Instead, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding those triggers simply helps lower the risks.
Know the signs of Ovarian cancer
The early stages of ovarian cancer may show no signs whatsoever, so it is fundamental you are screened regularly.
Symptoms are often frequent, so if you are experiencing any of the below more than 6 to 7 times in the space of one month and they cannot be related to any other health conditions such as IBS, you should contact your GP.
Main Ovarian cancer symptoms are –
- Needing to urinate more often or sudden urges to urinate
- Pain or tenderness around the pelvic area
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling bloated or swollen around the stomach area
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Change in bowel movement
- Weight loss
- Back pain
Again, it is essential to understand the difference between these symptoms and other health conditions such as IBS. If you are still concerned and cannot relate it to any ongoing health concerns, you must contact your GP.
We can perform a simple blood test to look at your risk for ovarian cancer and send you to have a scan if we are concerned.
Being screened for female cancers can be a concern for many, especially the first time around. Women have been known to put it off for fear of embarrassment or simply not knowing what to expect.
Cervical screening saves at least 2,000 lives each year in the UK, a figure which could be increased if we lose the taboo of vaginal screening.
So what happens during screening?
It’s often the case that before a requested screening, a doctor may require a blood test to be performed and will gain an understanding of your medical and family history. For example, this happens if you request a screening because you are concerned about any symptoms you may have had.
Regular testing where the GP invites you to come in for screening is more straightforward and is usually done in one swift appointment.
You will be requested to strip from the waist down during your appointment. Screening is performed behind a curtain where you will see a standard bed on which you will be asked to lie down.
Once you are on the bed, ready for the examination to start, you will be examined, beginning with an external assessment of your tummy area. This typically involves slight pressure placed on your pelvic and tummy area to check for tenderness.
Once you are ready, the internal examination will then take place.
A speculum is gently inserted into the vagina using an agent that helps slide in without discomfort. The speculum helps hold the vaginal wall open to give the doctor or nurse a clear view of the cervix. A sample of cells is then collected using a small brush.
The speculum is then removed, and you can get yourself dressed.
Although it may be uncomfortable, it is speedy and should not hurt. Some women find they have a slight bleed after. This is a result of irritating the cervix and should stop within a few hours after the procedure.
The sample taken is tested for high-risk forms of HPV (human papillomavirus). If high risks of HPV are found, our lab will then test for pre-cancerous cells. You should receive your results within two weeks of your test.
It’s important to know that cervical testing is not a test for cancer. Instead, it is a test that helps prevent cancer and allows us to look at changes within the cervix.
We accept cervical screening requests from all sexually active females aged 18 and up as a private clinic. We also provide HPV testing and cervical screening, which increases the chance of early detection.
If you wish to know more, have any further questions, or book a consultation within our clinic, get in touch today.