Ovarian cancer is a significant health concern for women in Singapore, and gaining knowledge about this disease is essential for prevention, early detection, and raising the chances for successful treatment. In this informative article, we will explore the different aspects of ovarian cancer, including its definition, risk factors, prevention strategies, common symptoms, sites of spread, and the importance of consulting a reputable cancer specialist like OncoCare. Whether you are seeking information for yourself or a loved one, our goal is to offer valuable insights and unwavering support on the path to dealing with ovarian cancer.
To effectively prevent ovarian cancer, it's crucial to be aware of the associated risk factors. While having one or more risk factors doesn't guarantee ovarian cancer, being informed empowers you to make proactive choices for your well-being. Ageing is a significant risk factor, with the majority of ovarian malignancies occurring after menopause, particularly among women aged 63 and older. Family history also plays a role, especially if a close relative has had ovarian cancer due to hereditary mutations. Other factors such as a history of breast cancer, obesity, late pregnancies, hormone replacement therapy after menopause, smoking, and endometriosis are also linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Fortunately, there are preventive measures that can help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Pregnancy and breastfeeding have been associated with a lower risk, and each full-term pregnancy further decreases the risk. The use of oral contraceptives, such as birth control pills, has been found to lower the risk as well, with a continuing protective effect even after discontinuation. Other forms of birth control, such as tubal ligation and short-term use of intrauterine devices (IUDs), have also shown a reduced risk. Additionally, undergoing a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus without removing the ovaries) has been found to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer by approximately one-third.
Recognising the symptoms of ovarian cancer is crucial for early detection and seeking timely medical attention. Common signs to be aware of include abdominal or pelvic pain, persistent bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, frequent and urgent urination, constipation, an enlarging waistline due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), extreme exhaustion or fatigue, acid reflux, pain during intercourse, and changes in menstruation. It is vital to listen to your body and remain vigilant for any unusual or persistent symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, we strongly advise consulting an ovarian cancer specialist in Singapore. Remember, it's important to note that these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, but early detection plays a pivotal role in improving treatment success.
Ovarian cancer has the potential to spread to different areas within the body, making it important to recognise the common sites of spread. The disease commonly metastasises to the liver, the fluid surrounding the lungs, the spleen, the intestines, the brain, the skin, and lymph nodes located outside of the abdomen. Understanding these sites of spread plays a crucial role in determining the most suitable treatment approach and ensuring comprehensive care for patients.
Surgery plays a crucial role in the management of ovarian cancer, serving two primary purposes: removing the cancer and staging the disease.
For early-stage ovarian cancer confined to the ovary, the surgical procedure involves a comprehensive removal of the uterus (hysterectomy), ovaries, fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy), omentum (a fatty tissue layer covering the abdominal organs), and the lymph nodes surrounding the tumour. During surgery, the abdominal cavity is carefully washed with salt water, and the collected fluid and tissue samples are examined under a microscope to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the ovary, providing valuable information on the extent of cancer staging.
In cases of advanced ovarian cancer with spread beyond the ovary, debulking surgery is performed. The primary objective of debulking surgery is to remove as much of the tumour as possible, aiming to leave no cancerous tissue behind. This meticulous surgical approach yields better outcomes for women whose ovarian cancer has been completely removed, compared to those with residual tumours following surgery.
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment for ovarian cancer that utilises powerful drugs to target and kill cancer cells. By specifically targeting fast-growing cells within the body, chemotherapy aims to disrupt the rapid growth of cancer cells. While chemotherapy can cause collateral damage to healthy fast-growing cells, ovarian cancers show a high level of responsiveness to this treatment approach. Various chemotherapy drugs are employed in ovarian cancer treatments in Singapore, tailored to individual patient needs and disease characteristics.
Each ovarian tumour possesses a unique set of genetic, protein, or other molecular features that drive its growth. Targeted therapy refers to a specialised treatment approach designed to block these specific factors and halt cancer growth. Sometimes referred to as "molecularly targeted drugs," "designer drugs," or "precision medicines," targeted therapy can be employed as a standalone treatment or in combination with other therapies like chemotherapy. By precisely targeting the underlying mechanisms fueling cancer growth, targeted therapy offers a tailored and potentially more effective approach to treating ovarian cancer in Singapore.
Certain types of ovarian cancer contain hormone receptors, such as oestrogen and/or progesterone receptors. These receptors are commonly found in low-grade ovarian cancers, including low-grade serous ovarian cancer and low-grade endometrioid ovarian cancer. Hormone therapy is utilised to slow down or halt the growth of hormone-dependent cancers by reducing oestrogen levels. By targeting the hormone receptors present in the tumour cells, hormone therapy offers a specialised treatment approach that can effectively control the progression of these specific types of ovarian cancer.
Seeking specialised care from a trusted cancer specialist like OncoCare is crucial in the fight against ovarian cancer, especially with it being the 5th most common female cancer in Singapore. With our expertise and personalised treatment plans, we can ensure early detection, timely intervention, and improved outcomes. Regular screenings and consultations with a dedicated specialist are essential for staying informed and taking proactive steps towards better health. OncoCare offers comprehensive services and compassionate support to guide you and your loved ones throughout the ovarian cancer journey. Take control of your health by consulting with OncoCare, a leading ovarian cancer specialist in Singapore, for reliable guidance and personalised treatment options.
“Expert knowledge means better care for cancer”
Dr Lim Sheow Lei
MBBS (Australia, Honours)
MRCP (United Kingdom)
MD (United Kingdom)