Ovarian cancer charities have come together in March to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease. Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Here at FLexercise HQ, we want you to be as informed as possible about risks, and symptoms so you can seek medical advice rapidly. So, we decided to look at the literature and put together our information on this common cancer.
Where are your ovaries and what do they do?
Your ovaries are a small set of organs situated low in your abdominal cavity. They attach to your uterus (womb) via your fallopian tubes. Your ovaries have 2 main reproductive functions. They produce eggs (oocytes) and the reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Your ovaries also protect the eggs you are born with until they are ready to be released (ovulation). During puberty your ovaries mature until they are the size of large grapes.
So why do some women get ovarian cancer?
We don’t really know the exact cause. However, some things MAY increase your risk of getting it. For example, being over 50, having a family history of ovarian or breast cancer or being overweight. Smoking, and not doing enough exercise have also been linked to the disease. Additionally, exposure to asbestos and having had endometriosis also seem to increase risks. Finally, there is a small increased risk if you’ve been on HRT.
It is important for you to note that although ovarian cancer tends to affect postmenopausal women (over 50) it can sometimes affect younger women. So, it’s important that we are all aware of the signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer
If you feel bloated all the time, have a swollen abdomen, experience pain in the pelvic or abdominal area, feel full quickly when eating and need to pee more often, you need to seek advice. You need to be aware some of these symptoms can also be attributed to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and that can blur the picture.
When should I go and see my GP?
It’s really important not to ignore symptoms and bury your head in the sand. See your GP if you have experienced bloating more than 12 times in a month, if you have other symptoms of ovarian cancer that won’t go away or if you have a family history of the disease. It’s unlikely that you do have ovarian cancer but it’s best to check and that can be done with a few simple tests. If you’ve already been to see your GP and the symptoms get worse, then you must tell them.
What are my treatment options?
The main treatments are surgery and chemotherapy. The surgery will most likely include removing both ovaries, your uterus, and fallopian tubes. Chemotherapy is usually used after surgery to mop up any possible remaining cancer cells. But you might also be offered it pre-surgery to shrink the tumour.
How can I help myself during treatment?
It’s important that you care for yourself during surgery and chemotherapy. Your specialists will give you helpful advice on managing chemo symptoms and it’s really important that you follow post-hysterectomy instructions to the letter. You’ll feel tired during treatment so we really wouldn’t expect to see you in class. However, you may feel you want to come and be with your friends and just watch or do seated work. It would be lovely to see you, but there’s absolutely no pressure.
It’s important though, to keep gently active and not stay welded to the sofa watching daytime TV. Simple foot and leg exercises like those we suggest when flying will help to minimise your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis https://www.fl-exercise.com/dvt-and-travel-our-guide-to-helping-you-minimise-your-risk/
Going for a short daily walk will also help to keep your body active and most importantly help to calm your mind. Having a cancer diagnosis can be very scary and sometimes we need to get away from it all. Fresh air can really help.
Will I get better?
Often, this type of cancer has spread by the time it’s diagnosed. Even after successful initial treatment, there is a high probability of it returning and at that point, it won’t be curable. That said, chemotherapy may be very useful in managing symptoms and keeping the cancer under control for a while.
We thought long and hard about writing this blog as it isn’t cheery or life-affirming. But we felt it was really important for you to be aware of the facts to allow you to make choices. So be aware of your body and tell all your female friends and relations what you have learned. The only way we are going to improve outcomes is by increasing ovarian cancer awareness.
Remember, there is lots of support available for you
Good luck. xx