Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2012 takes place in March, and puts the focus on the fifth most common cancer affecting women in the UK, with approximately 6,800 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year.
As well as ovarian cancer, there are many aspects of gynaecological health affecting women that are either misunderstood or not known about by them, including conditions such as polycystic ovaries, pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer. This month, BMI Healthcare is calling on all women to take care of their health and become aware of these issues.
Dr Adam Rosenthal, Consultant Gynaecologist & Gynaecological Oncologist from BMI Fitzroy Square Hospital explains: “It is important for women to be aware of their bodies and gynaecological health. They should visit their GP if they are experiencing any uncharacteristic symptoms, as occasionally these symptoms could be a sign of a serious condition.”
Ovarian Cancer is a condition where most women are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread, though the following symptoms can all be signs of the disease; persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, increased abdominal size, persistent bloating, difficulty eating and feeling full quickly.
BMI Healthcare has compiled the following interesting facts on women’s health and ovarian cancer that women may not have known but should be aware of:
Did you know…..?
- Ovarian cancer usually affects women after they have reached menopause, and although it can occur in younger women, 85% of those diagnosed are over the age of 50.
- There is more than one type of ovarian cancer, but the most common is called epithelial ovarian cancer. Rarer types of ovarian cancer include germ cell tumours, which tend to occur in younger women.
- A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is not used to detect ovarian cancer. It is used to detect abnormal cells on the cervix, which can be treated to prevent cervical cancer from developing.
- The age women are invited to have their first cervical screening test varies in different countries. In England the age to receive a first test is 25, but in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the age is 20. The reason the English screening program starts at 25 years and not younger ages is that many cervical abnormalities in younger women get better on their own before the age of 25, allowing many women to avoid treatment.
- Heavy periods, although common, can be caused by a variety of conditions, including endometriosis or fibroids. They may also be a symptom of other problems and should always be investigated.
- One day human eggs may be produced from other cells in a woman’s ovary, getting round the problem that whilst women are born with all of their eggs (approximately two million of them), the eggs are continually dying as they get older, so that most women run out of eggs in their 50s at the menopause.
- Any menopause that occurs in a woman under 45 years of age is known as early menopause, and before the age of 40 is called premature menopause. The average age in the UK for women to reach menopause is 51.
- Many women who have polycystic ovaries (which contain a collection of cysts), do not have the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome; excessive body hair, gaining weight, infertility, irregular periods and acne. However, some women suffering from these symptoms can have normal ovaries on ultrasound.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can be caused by some sexually transmitted infections (STI), and if left untreated complications can be serious. Complications include infertility, ectopic pregnancies and pelvic pain.
- Not everyone suffers from symptoms when they have a STI. For example, many men and women with Chlamydia may feel completely well. Regular STI tests should be done once you start having sex and using a condom will help to prevent catching an STI or passing it on.
When it comes to health, it is important for women to be proactive about seeing their GP if they have any new symptoms. Women should also have regular cervical screening and consider having STI screening, as these should reduce the chance of any serious problems developing in the future.