Causes of ovarian cancer you should definitely know about


“I think cancer helps to transform a person… It affected me so much that it enabled me to grow, appreciate life and honor my body.” Says Manisha Koirala, while talking about her ovarian cancer that was diagnosed in 2012. There is very less awareness about ovarian compared to the breast cancer in India. Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries of women and most of the times; the increase in abdominal area is looked over. The symptoms are very hard to see and non-specific. Thus, the diagnosis happens at a stage when the cancer is hard to treat.

There are some early signs of ovarian cancer; like these mentioned below –

  • Pain and pressure in abdomen and it’s bloating.
  • Having trouble while eating and feeling full shortly after eating.
  • Increased urge of urinating and increased frequency.

Above symptoms do not necessary mean that the cancer is present, however, it is recommended to get the checkup done if those persist for more than a month.

Now let us see some common causes attributed to ovarian cancer.

Image credits - topinfopost.com/
Image credits – topinfopost.com/
  1. Inherited faulty genes

Most of the ovarian cancers are due to the genetic changes that occur in woman’s body during her lifetime and not necessarily inherited. Around 1 in 10 ovarian cancers are result of inherited gene mutation. These genes include BRCA1 & BRCA2 which are also responsible for increased risk of breast cancer.

The risk of developing ovarian cancer is more if you have close relatives (mother, sister, or daughter) who had ovarian or breast cancer. However, if they were less than 50 years of age at the time of cancer diagnosis, it is possible that their cancer was because of inherited faulty genes.

There are many genetic tests available which help to know your genetic make-up and family history. It also detects your risk for ovarian cancer.

  1. Previous breast cancer

Sometimes, same set of faulty genes is responsible for breast as well as ovarian cancer. i.e. women who earlier had breast cancer have more risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to general women population. If the diagnosis of breast cancer was before 40 years of age, the risk is four-fold.

If you had breast cancer before 40 and have a family history of ovarian cancer, you have 17 times the average risk of ovarian cancer.

If you think you may have a faulty gene, you can speak to your GP. There is more information about screening for ovarian cancer in this section.

  1. Fertility treatment

Some studies have linked fertility drugs to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but recent studies do not support this. But there is a risk of ovarian tumours in infertile women who have been treated with IVF; however, infertility increases the risk of ovarian cancer more rather than its treatment.

  1. Hormone replacement therapy

Combined HRT is considered as one of the causes for ovarian cancer. A study observed that women using HRT for a few years were having more risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who had never used it. The risk is very low compared to the other causes.

  1. Using IUD

IUD means intra uterine device. It is one of the birth control measures used by females. A study has shown that women who use a coil (IUD) have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but the risk is still small.

  1. Physical conditions

Checking BMI (Body Mass Index) in regular intervals is important. BMI shows if you are obese or underweight compared to your height. A study in 2008 stated the risk of being overweight for premenopausal & postmenopausal women. It was observed that premenopausal women with more than 30 BMI had a risk of ovarian cancer, but postmenopausal women had none. It is also found in a research that taller women have more risk of ovarian cancer than shorter women.

  1. Endometriosis

Research has shown that women with endometriosis have an increase in their ovarian cancer risk compared to women who do not. Endometriosis is a disease in which a tissue that generally grows inside the uterus grows outside it.

Smoking is one of the reasons of ovarian cancer. Image credits - archives.deccanchronicle.com
Smoking is one of the reasons of ovarian cancer.
archives.deccanchronicle.com
  1. Smoking

It is a proven fact that smoking causes many hazards- including lung cancer. However, it also has a role in ovarian cancer. A research showed an increased risk of mucinous ovarian tumours in smokers. However, the risk was back to normal after the smoking was stopped.

  1. Diet factors

Though the effect of diet on ovarian cancer is not yet highly established, studies show that diet high in animal fats may lead to ovarian cancer.

Prevention tips

It is said that prevention is always better than cure. Thus, here are a few tips important for the prevention of ovarian cancer.

– High level of blood calcium level means increased risk of ovarian cancer- make sure to get it monitored regularly.

– Contraceptive pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women and also protect them from the disease even 30 years after they discontinue the medication.

– Women with family history of any cancer should never ignore any of the above mentioned symptoms.

– Hysterectomy reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by about one-third.

No matter what, screening is absolutely important. It not just screens for the cancer but many other genetic disorders and also helps you to take the necessary measures.

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Role Of Genetics In Breast Cancer and BRCA-1 & 2 Mutations


“I know my children would never have to say- mom died of cancer!” said Angelina Jolie- famous Hollywood actress after her decision of preventive surgery for ovarian cancer where she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. BRCA mutation was found in her tests and three women in her family; including her mother had died of cancer. Thus, she had to take a preventive measure.

Genes and genetic variations in our body contribute to the bodily functions and overall health. This also includes the possibility of having various diseases which are hereditary or developed in our body due to changes in the genetic codes.

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Each cell in our body consists of genes that have genetic code for our body. These codes contain the information regarding various functions of our body for example – when the cells grow, divide, and die. Changes in these genetic codes are called mutations. Many of these are harmless; while some increase the risk of diseases like breast cancer. BRCA are inherited mutations; thus you need to undergo this test only once. I.e. they do not develop during our lifetime.

According to the American Journal of Human Genetics and Journal of Clinical Oncology, around 55-65% of women with confirmed BRCA mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 70 and their immediate family members have 50% chances of possessing the same risk.
It’s not only women who are at risk; while women have 85% risk of breast cancer and 40% risk of ovarian cancer; men too have about 20% risk of prostate cancer and/ or male breast cancer.

Thus, to examine the risk of it, Datar Genetics Limited has introduced a test using NGS platform that has 99.9% analytical sensitivity and 100% specificity and accuracy. NGS means Next Generation Sequencing. It enables us to examine the genetic mutations in members of families with high incidence of cancer.

BRCA -1 & BRCA – 2 are two genes which are linked to HBOC (Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer) these genes produce tumor suppressor proteins which help to repair damaged DNA. When either of these genes have mutations, it increases the risk of cancer.

BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 testing should be considered if:-

  1. You had breast cancer at early age
  2. Your mother, sister, or daughter had breast cancer at early age or ovarian cancer.
  3. You are a woman with 1st degree relative who’s diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer before age of 50
  4. The men in your family have strong history of breast/ ovarian cancer.

Genetic testing

A doctor/ genetic counselor helps you decide whether genetic testing is appropriate for you. In most cases, test is primarily done on the person in the family who has breast cancer. If mutation is not found, other family members need not be tested.

image description
image description

The test includes counseling and a blood test and you can get the results in around two weeks.

It is very important for you to know if you are at a risk of mutation and you should ask your doctor what tests and precautions should be taken to lower the risk.

Women who have BRCA 1 gene mutation are at higher risk of triple negative breast cancer while BRCA 2 carriers have breast cancers that are Estrogen Receptor positive. BRCA 1/2 mutations increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Men with BRCA 2 mutation have increased risk of prostate and breast cancer.

Risk reduction options:-

Following are the recommended cancer screening tests:-
  1. Breast Self Examination/ Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)
  2. Mammography
  3. Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging

There are also some risk lowering options for BRCA1/2 carriers, like- FDA approved drugs and treatments like prophylactic mastectomy and prophylactic oophorectomy.

Timely examinations and preventive treatments are best way to lower the risk of breast cancer.

 

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