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Reducing The Risk Of Developing Ovarian Cancer

Women who have used ovulation-stimulating fertility medications also increase their risk of ovarian cancer. But this risk maybe nullified in women who become pregnant while taking such drugs. Experts said the use of birth control pills can reduce by 50 per cent the chances of contracting the common kind of ovarian cancer. Although researchers are not sure how these pills protect against ovarian cancer, the benefit is well documented. More importantly, this benefit continues long after the woman stops taking the Pill,

The three main ways to treat ovarian cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Surgery is almost always the first course of treatment and is often used to "debulk" the cancer-that is, to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Debulking surgery is especially important in ovarian cancer because aggressively removing the cancerous tissue increases the chances of survival.

Experts say women with no residual tumour mass or with masses that measure less than 1cm have the best chance of a cure. The surgeon cannot always be sure that all cancer cells are removed so chemotherapy is given to kill off any that remain. Sometimes radiotherapy is also recommended to kill additional cancer cells in the pelvic region.

A recent trial conducted by researcher involving 205 women showed a median survival time of 16 months longer than women who received only intravenous chemotherapy. The women who had undergone effective surgical debulking were given a combination of intravenous and intraperitoneal LIP) administration of chemotherapy through a surgically implanted catheter that allows passage of fluids in the abdominal cavity.

Experts said that IP chemotherapy allows higher doses and more frequent administration of drugs to the patient and it appears to be effective in killing the cancer cells in the peritoneal cavity. However, experts warned that IT chemotherapy has more side effects such as a higher chance of damage to the nervous system and abdominal discomfort. 'But these are generally short term and manageable,

Experts say that the survival rate of a woman suffering from ovarian cancer often depends on her age and her general state of health as these can affect her ability to cope with the surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments.

Lowering The Risk

Symptomless ovarian cancer is usually detected during a woman's regular gynaecological examination. Whenever a pap smear is performed, this should be followed by a gynaecological examination and by transvaginal ultrasound if there are any suspicious of ovarian enlargement. A blood test known as CA 125 may be carried out if indicated.

The risk of ovarian cancer is reduced by:

  • Taking the combined oral contraception pill for more than five years.
  • Childbearing and breastfeeding, tubal ligation and removal of ovaries during a hysterectomy.
  • Not using talc powder in genital area.

Women who have one or more family members who have had cancer of the ovary, breast, colon and women who have a hereditary ovarian syndrome or who are carriers of cancer gene mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 should be monitored very closely by their doctors and in some cases, may wish to consider removing their ovaries.


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