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7 essential things to know about ovarian cancer

ovarian cancer

This article originally appeared on the Tiq blog.

Did you know that ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer in Singaporean women? Statistics from the Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Report 2018 revealed that 4.9% of women in Singapore are being affected by cancers of the ovary and fallopian tube, with the majority of cases affecting women between 40 to 60 years of age. Although ovarian cancer is less common compared to other gynaecological cancers, it is the most deadly. Read on to know more. 

What is ovarian cancer? 

Ovaries are a pair of glands in the female reproductive system. Located in the pelvis (and roughly the size of an almond), the ovaries are where eggs are stored and hormones such as estrogen are produced. It releases eggs, which will travel through the fallopian tubes to the womb or uterus. Ovarian cancer happens when cells in the ovaries begin to grow out of control, resulting in a malignant tumour in either one or both ovaries. 

What causes ovarian cancer? 

Unfortunately, the exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. There are, however, some women who are at a higher risk for this cancer. Some of the risk factors associated with ovarian cancer are: 

  • Late pregnancy or women who have never been pregnant 
  • Early-onset of menstruation or late menopause 
  • Personal history of cancer (breast, uterus, colon or rectum) 
  • Genetic predisposition (family history of ovarian cancer) 
  • Endometriosis (a health condition where tissues similar to uterus lining grows outside of the uterus) 

Symptoms to look out for 

Also known as a silent killer, there are often no symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer. When symptoms arise, the cancer is often advanced. Some of the symptoms may include: 

Possible symptoms of ovarian cancer

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed? 

There are several ways to diagnose ovarian cancer: 

  • Ultrasound scan – Internal ultrasound (known as a transvaginal ultrasound), where a probe is inserted into the vagina. An external ultrasound, on the other hand, is put next to the stomach. The ultrasound images can show if there are any cysts that may be present in the ovaries. 
  • Pet CT or CT scan – Image scans of the abdomen, chest and pelvis to help look for signs of cancer in other areas of the body. 
  • CA 125 blood test – It is a protein, which is found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells and some normal tissues. High levels of CA-125 could indicate the presence of cancer or other conditions. However, this test is not used alone to diagnose ovarian cancer. 
  • Chest x-rays – Used to detect if other areas of the body are affected. 
  • Surgery or biopsy – Ultimately needed to prove if the affected cells are cancerous and originate from the ovaries. 

Treatment options for ovarian cancer

Most women have surgery and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible, besides determining the stage of cancer. The surgeon may also remove ovaries, the uterus and its surrounding lymphatics. 

Although there hasn’t been research that proves early detection of ovarian cancer can increase chances of longer survival, early diagnosis and treatments are still important. Have regular cancer check-ups and do not ignore symptoms if you are around the perimenopausal age group. 

Adopt a healthy lifestyle and try to eat healthier foods as some food contain ‘phytochemicals’, such as berries, garlic, onions, mushrooms, spinach and other leafy green vegetables to fight cancer and reduce the risk of its development.

How you can prepare for the unexpected 

In summary, adopt healthy habits as a preventative measure and protect yourself with reliable cancer insurance so you are prepared in the event of unexpected circumstances. After all, you deserve to be protected!

Contributed by Tiq by Etiqa Insurance Pte. Ltd. 

With a shared vision to empower more to be ready for their best future today, Autumn partners with Tiq, a digital insurance channel to make insurance transparent and accessible, inspiring you today to be prepared for life’s surprises and inevitabilities, while empowering you to “Live Unlimited” and take control of your tomorrow. 

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