Ovarian cancer is considered one of the most common cancers among women following breast cancer. Unfortunately, the majority of ovarian cancers are only detected during the advanced stages which makes the diagnosis and treatment to be delayed which eventually affects the prognosis of the patient. There are several risk factors and hypotheses leading to the occurrence of ovarian cancer. Continue reading the article to know more about what can increase your risk of getting ovarian cancer.
Risk factors of ovarian cancer
- Age – This is a non modifiable risk factor for ovarian cancers. Different types of ovarian cancer affect different age groups of women. For instance, epithelial ovarian cancer affects elderly post menopausal women more while germ cell tumor affects women at reproductive age more commonly.
- Estrogen dependent risk factors – Primarily ovarian cancer occurs more in women who are exposed to estrogen for a longer duration of time. This explains several risk factors such as attaining early menarche, late menopause, late pregnancy (typically more than 35 years old) and postmenopausal women who receives estrogen therapy for more than 5 years.
- Obesity – Having a body mass index of more than 30 can increase your risk of getting ovarian cancer.
- Family history – In most cases, genetics and a positive family history is the sole reason for ovarian cancer occurence in most women. Family history of 2 more first degree relatives having ovarian cancer or breast cancer technically increases your risk of getting ovarian cancer. Besides, a positive family history in other conditions like endometrial cancer, Cowden disease, and colonic conditions equally increases your risk.
- Protective risk factors – Ironically, there are also several risk factors that protect you against ovarian cancer. Some examples of them include usage of combined oral contraceptive pills, breastfeeding, reduced fat diet, earlier age of pregnancy, and gynecological surgeries such as hysterectomy, prophylactic oophorectomy and tubal ligation.
Hypotheses of ovarian cancer
Researchers and medical specialists have discovered several hypotheses leading to the occurrence of ovarian cancer. Here are the three most speculated theories of ovarian cancer;
- Incessant ovulation theory
Ovulation causes the formation of primary and secondary follicles in the ovary which is generated from the epithelial cells of the organ. Frequent ovulation eventually causes damage to this layer and is said to initiate the tumor formation in the long run.
- Excess gonadotropin secretion
Gonadotropin is a central hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, the excess secretion of this particular hormone can cause an increase in estrogen levels in the body which eventually increases your risk of getting the cancer.
- Fallopian tube theory
Although rare, the fallopian tube theory is still considered possible in causing ovarian cancer. The migration of fallopian tube malignancy to the ovaries is said to be true and proved. This is also the reason why tubal ligation is considered as one of the protective risk factors against ovarian malignancy.
How to detect ovarian cancer?
As has been told earlier, most cases of ovarian cancers are only detected during the late stage which makes the treatment harder, so it is extremely alert on your risk factors and possible signs and symptoms of ovarian tumor. If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms for a prolonged duration with a strong history of risk factors, it is advisable to meet a doctor for further consultation. Here are some vague symptoms of ovarian tumor reported by most patients previously;
- Abdominal distension with palpable solid mass
- Constitutional symptoms such as loss of weight, loss of appetite and unexplained intermittent fever.
- Dyspepsia and early satiety
- Compressive symptoms like urgency, incontinence, and constipation
- Menstrual abnormalities related with sex cord stromal tumor such as feminizing and virilizing symptoms.
- Metastatic symptoms like shortness of breath, cough and jaundice.