In honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which is designated as the month of September each year, it is important to inform women of the dangers that could be harmful to their gynecological health or increase the risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point during their life. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth largest cause of cancer deaths among women, with more than 14,000 women dying from the disease every year.
There are many lifestyle and environmental factors that have been proven to have a direct correlation with those who have been found to have ovarian cancer. Following is an overview of just a select few of these influences that may be a part of a daily routine for some women. If this is the case, be sure to consult with your medical practitioner or gynecologist as soon as possible.
Regular blood tests are shown to be the only reliable method of catching early onset symptoms of cancer of the ovaries. It’s important to recognize that although living a healthy lifestyle is recommended for all women, some may be living with genetic variations that cannot be changed. Genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, have been associated with the development of malignant ovarian tumors as well as breast cancer. Also, a hereditary condition known as Lynch syndrome has been linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
If you do test positive for either BRCA1 or BRCA2, consider periodically asking your doctor about the CA 125 test (cancer antigen 125), which is recommended for those with an elevated danger of developing ovarian cancer. This test is not meant for women with an average risk for cancer, but those with an increased risk, such as women who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene abnormalities. It should be noted that the CA 125 test is by no means perfect and often can detect non-cancerous conditions such as endometriosis, liver cirrhosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids. So, be sure to fully explore any elevated results further with your doctor and seek advanced testing to disprove a false-positive result.
Following are specific lifestyle habits or afflictions that can be altered in order to lower the possibility of developing ovarian cancer.
By maintaining a healthy diet and body weight, a woman can dramatically reduce her chance of developing not only ovarian cancer, but many other medical conditions. Obese people often have chronic low-level inflammation, which can, over time, cause DNA damage that leads to cancer. Eating smarter and less often, as well as regular exercise can combat obesity. One of the most recommended diets for those who are overweight or exceed the typical BMI for their age is the DASH diet. It has been endorsed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and has been very successful for those who are willing to commit to the plan long-term. Adopting a plant-based diet or eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, whole grains and fiber has been found to help prevent many diseases.
Avoiding cigarettes (yes, this does include second-hand smoke) and other tobacco products (vaping and juuling) may reduce your risk of ovarian tumors. As it now become common knowledge that there is a direct link between smoking and multiple forms of cancer, it is worth discussing that new e-cigarettes such as vape pens and Juuls contain nicotine, which is both addictive and harmful for your body. These can do just as much damage to the lungs and esophagus as cigarettes over long-term use. Consult a medical expert when attempting to quit smoking to find the best strategy that fits your personal needs.
For many women, using talcum powder in the genital area has become a daily routine to stay dry and comfortable throughout the day. However, scientists have discovered an overlap between those using talc-based product in the genital region and those diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Check the label for talc before using in sensitive areas. Wearing cotton underwear can also help prevent chafing, meaning it is a viable alternative to powdering. Other environmental dangers may include the extended use herbicides and pesticides. Avoiding these types of chemicals could lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Women who have had other forms of cancers, such as breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer at some point in their life. Additionally, those with endometriosis have a higher probability of being diagnosed. This reiterates the need for regular checkups with your gynecologist and frequent screenings. This is equally true for all other types of cancer.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
- Bloating or an increase in abdominal size
- Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner
- Pelvic or lower back pressure
- Frequent urination or constipation
- Changes in bowel movements
- Menstruation changes
- Nausea, indigestion or vomiting
- Fatigue or low levels of energy
This September it is vitally important for all women to inform their family, friends and loved ones of the risks as well as the symptoms of ovarian cancer. This will allow a doctor to catch the disease before it is able to spread within the body, or becomes virtually untreatable. It can not be said enough that getting tested at least once a year will help save thousands of women’s lives. Make Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month a time for true appreciation of womanhood, followed by a visit to your OBGYN.
Have you or a loved one suffered from ovarian cancer?
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