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September 2011
Ovarian cancer
Deep down, there is a silent killer
Dr P K Das
Often called the silent killer, ovarian cancer is the malignancy of cells in the female reproductive organ called the ovary. The symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer are frequently absent during the early stages of the disease, and often become apparent when the cancer has already established and spread its roots. Consequently, if diagnosed at this stage, it becomes even more difficult to treat it.

The lack of obvious specific symptoms in its early stages when the ovarian cancer is highly curable is precisely why patients and doctors must take extra care to not overlook them. In fact, the symptoms are quite overlapping with other diseases which are less serious in nature such as irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections and so on.

It is indeed unfortunate that only about 20% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed during their early stage. Hence, if you notice a persistence of these symptoms almost daily over a number of weeks, you must report them to your doctor immediately.

Who all can be affected?
Although such cancers can affect any woman, the following categories of women demonstrate an increased chance of developing the disease:          
  • Women with a family history of ovarian cancer; past history of breast cancer
  • Women who have never being pregnant
  • Women who have undergone post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy
  • Women who are using fertility drugs
  • Women, especially above the age of 55, who have tested positive for endometriosis
Self Check
Do you have the following symptoms? (Tick if applicable)          
  • Abdominal swelling, pressure and pain
  • Discomfort and bloating
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Urgency to urinate frequently
  • Constipation
  • Feeling full quickly
  • Fatigue
           More specific symptoms such as: pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding and/or involuntary weight loss have also been reported.If you tick more than six, please consult your doctor immediately.
Dr P K Das is Senior Consultant, Medical Oncologist Apollo Indraprastha Hospitals, New Delhi

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