What are the causes?


The two most important factors are age and family history

The two most important factors are age – with likelihood increasing after 50, though younger women can get it too – and family history. A strong family history is classed as two or more cases of ovarian and/or breast cancer. Though this increases risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean someone will get ovarian cancer. You should tell your GP about a strong family history.

Description: The two most important factors are age and family history

Mr Razvi says, “Cancer is caused by several stepwise changes to DNA in cells; in some types, we know what the trigger is (eg smoking in lung cancer), but in 90 per cent of cases of ovarian cancer, we simply don’t know. There is some evidence that women who don’t have children or have fewer pregnancies are more likely to be affected, so we have to ask if the process of incessant ovulation is involved. This is confirmed by research that shows women who take the contraceptive pill (which suppresses ovulation) long-term are less likely to suffer ovarian cancer.

“In ten per cent of cases, we do know there is a specific gene at fault: both the BRCA family of genes (commonly associated with breast cancer) and the Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC) gene. Women who have a family history of ovarian, breast, womb and colon cancer can be referred to a genetics service to ascertain their risks and may be offered screening”

Lynn Holmes adds, “We don’t know what causes it yet, so we can’t tell you how to prevent it. Some women think a cervical smear will detect ovarian cancer, but this is not the case and it can still develop even after a hysterectomy”

Screening test

Scientists are evaluating results of two large-scale UK trials. Prof Ian Jacobs, lead researcher and new Head of the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MSHSC), says, “we are not ready to report the results, but analysis shows the tests pick up 85 per cent of women who go on to develop ovarian cancer”

Linda Drew, 46, an operations director from Penarth, South Wales, who’s single, learned she had cancer in July 2010


Description: When  I went to see my GP, I was told that symptoms were Irritable Bowel Syndrome

“When  I went to see my GP, I was told that symptoms were Irritable Bowel Syndrome”

I suffered constant stomach bloating, extreme fatigue and a bladder that wouldn’t stop complaining, but numerous visits to my GP resulted in the suggestion that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome or perhaps gallstones. Initially reassured, I tried dieting to reduce my expanded waistline, but it had absolutely no result. I started buying trousers two sizes larger than I needed – just for the waistband. Still concerned, I resorted to check-up at a private health clinic and when they gave me the all-clear, I tried to stop worrying. But when a medical friend heard me complain about my symptoms, he asked to examine my tummy.

“Feel this, Linda” he told me. As he guided my fingers over my tummy, I could feel two massive lumps. I was referred to a consultant. A CA-125 blood test known as a tumour marker for ovarian cancer fond my levels were raised to 3,600 (the average is 30)

When I was told it was cancer, I looked on the Internet and found that ovarian cancer is called the silent killer because it is so often detected too late. I was so upset, I wrote a will and letters of goodbye to my family.

Within a week, I was given a full hysterectomy and two cysts were removed. They drained seven and a half litres of fluid, and I lost at the same time.

Recovery was hard, and I was angry. I had been complaining to my GP for a year without being taken seriously. Plus my body went into surgically induced menopause. It was a tough time. Seeing a counselor helped; she nurtured me into believing I could start living again.

I’m now very vigilant about my health, but have been warned it will probably come back because ovarian cancer recurs so often. Yet I am beginning to feel better and am determined to spread the world about awareness. Best of all, I’m daring to set goals now – I’m even making plans for a 50th birthday in Las Vegas.

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