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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal ovarian cells. The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system and produce an egg each month for fertilisation.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women after breast, bowel and lung cancers. New cases of Ovarian cancer are most likely to be diagnosed in women over the age of 65. It may be more likely in women who have had endometriosis and those who are overweight. It is more common in those who have never had children. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is associated with a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer. This risk continues to increase slightly the longer HRT is taken but returns to normal once it is stopped.

A woman with two or more relatives from the same side of the family (i.e. from either the mother's or father's side), affected by ovarian, or ovarian and breast cancer, the risk for this type of cancer may be increased. If this applies to you it is important to make this known to your Doctor.

Until recently it was considered that in the early stages of Ovarian Cancer there are usually no obvious symptoms. A recent study involving 1,500 women with Ovarian Cancer indicates that more that 80 per cent of women experience at least one related early warning symptom in the year before their diagnosis. The difficulty is that these are symptoms that healthy women experience commonly and may not indicate the presence of cancer.

These symptoms include; abdominal bloating, abdominal or back pain, appetite loss or feeling full quickly. Other symptoms include changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, indigestion or heartburn and fatigue.

If a woman develops one or more of these symptoms, which are unusual for her, and the symptoms are persistent then they warrant investigation from a health professional.
Remember that these symptoms are also common in diseases other than Ovarian Cancer.

As the tumour grows it can press on and grow into surrounding structures, producing symptoms that worsen over 2 or 3 weeks, such as a frequent urge to urinate, incontinence (lack of bladder control) and constipation. There may also be dull abdominal pain and bloating or swelling.

In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. It is important to have unusual symptoms checked by a Doctor. Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. Regular check-ups from your Doctor are an important step in the prevention of any disease.

Diagnosis is usually confirmed using laparoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the abdomen. A variety of other imaging techniques can help the Doctor to determine the location and spread of the Cancer. Your Doctor may refer you to a gynaecologist for tests, such as a blood test and ultrasound. This is called staging the cancer. Staging refers to the degree to which the cancer has spread beyond its original location. The lower the stage, the less the Cancer has spread. In most cases treatment involves the surgical removal of as much of the cancer as possible. Higher staged cancers may also require chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In later stages of Ovarian Cancer, symptom and pain relief may be the goal of treatment.

The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) is a long-term, large-scale study of the influence of diet on cancer in humans. The EPIC results recommend that people lose weight if overweight or obese and have a diet that is:
• High in fruits and vegetables.
• High in fibre.
• Low in red or processed meats.
• Low in saturated fat.

Evidence suggests that natural substances found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage may lower overall cancer risk. Other cruciferous vegetables include rocket, watercress, garden cress, kale, bok choy, radish, horseradish and wasabi.

There is clear scientific evidence that prevention reduces the risk of Ovarian Cancer. For example, the risk of Ovarian Cancer is reduced by between 30 to 40 percent in women who have at least one child. The use of the combined oral contraceptive pill (OCP) also reduces the risk of developing Ovarian Cancer by 40 percent. The contraceptive pill's protective effects can last for at least 20 years after you stop taking it Tubal ligation is associated with a 30 percent reduction in mortality from Ovarian Cancer.

Always consult your Doctor before taking any dietary supplements for advice on any possible side effects or drug interactions. This is particularly important during cancer therapy, as many chemotherapy drugs act by blocking the effects of certain vitamins.
• Vitamin A and vitamin A derivatives have been found to reduce the growth of Ovarian Cancer cells in cancers that are resistant to many cancer treatments.
• Vitamin E may protect normal cells from damage during radiotherapy treatments.
• The flavonoid Quercetin has been found to reduce the growth rate of Ovarian Cancer cells.
• Substances found in hops have been shown to reduce the proliferation of Ovarian Cancer cells.

Australian Cancer Council -
Indian Cancer Society -

Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Follow the diet hints.
2. Quit smoking. Ask your Pharmacist for information and products designed to help you quit.
3. Your Pharmacist can offer advice about the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and stocks a range of low irritant skin washes, mouthwashes etc.
4. Discuss any medications you may be taking with your Pharmacist, who can advise you about their effects and any potential problems or side effects.
5. If dietary intake is inadequate, consider some supplements.
6. Some studies show that regular aspirin intake (at least 3 times per week) may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless specified by a Doctor.

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