Ovarian Cancer Awareness And Why Your Pseudo Baby Bump May Be Dangerous
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. In order to shed more light on this disease that plagues the lives of many women, MadameNoire interviewed Ovarian Cancer advocate and award-winning research scientist Colletta Orr. Orr, who is also the author of Cancer Doesn’t Always Win; A Comprehensive Guide To Beating Breast and Ovarian Cancer, noted in our Q&A how women often ignore the physical symptoms of ovarian cancer and why they fail to remove their reproductive organs in order to save their lives. She also gave insight on why so many doctors fail to diagnose women with the disease.
MadameNoire (MN): What is ovarian cancer?
Colletta Orr (CO): Ovarian cancer is any cancerous growth that may occur in different parts of the ovary. It develops from cells that have been mutated. It is important to note, one in 67 women will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Also, ovarian cancer happens infrequently in women under 40 years of age, but it can and does occur in young women.
MN: How can it be prevented?
CO: There is no way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, to help with not developing the disease, women can use birth control for five or more years. Birth control will help put a woman’s ovaries in a resting state. When the ovaries are in a resting state that means the ovaries are not going through the ovulation process. Other options are tubal ligation (tying your Fallopian tubes), removing both of your ovaries or having a hysterectomy. Pregnancy is another way for women to not develop ovarian cancer because their bodies would not be going through the ovulation or menstrual cycles for a long period of time. After their child is born, women can breastfeed in order to not ovulate or menstruate.
MN: Naturally, women are supposed to ovulate and have their menstrual cycle. How do these natural body functions make women predisposed to ovarian cancer?
CO: As a woman you are supposed to ovulate and menstruate in order to have children. However, some women get their period at young ages. When this occurs, a woman’s ovaries may become overstimulated (over the span of her lifetime) until she transitions into menopause in her 50s. The longer you menstruate, the more your ovaries are in overdrive and functioning at a high rate.
MN: Does your body weight increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer?
CO: An increased level of estrogen is a risk factor for ovarian cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen, putting you at a higher risk of ovarian cancer. In order to not be at risk, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Also, deciding to breastfeed your children may also be helpful in preventing ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding for one to two years lowers your risk for both breast and ovarian cancer, and it doesn’t need to be consecutive. Like in pregnancy, you’re less likely to ovulate while you’re breastfeeding, thus reducing your risk of ovarian cancer.
MN: Research says women who are older are at a greater risk at developing ovarian cancer. Why is that?
CO: Age is a huge factor, especially after menopause. Usually, ovarian cancer is found in women who are over the age of 60. The reason why cancer may be found in the reproductive system is because the organs are getting older. The same factors go for developing breast cancer. When your body gets older, it is likely to develop diseases and that is something we cannot change. Especially for women who are going through severe hormonal changes; when your body doesn’t adjust to those changes, cell mutation (that causes cancer) can occur.
MN: How can women in their 20s and 30s detect ovarian cancer?
CO: Unfortunately, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer. A lot of women believe they can go to their gynecologist and receive a pap smear to detect it. In actuality, you can only do that for cervical cancer. Cancerous tumors that are located in the ovaries (pelvic region) are usually located in a section behind the uterus. Because of their placement, these tumors go undetected until they grow bigger. Instead of waiting for a tumor to grow, a woman can take a genetic test to determine if she has “high-grade” cell growth — especially if she is a high-risk candidate for the disease. If she tests positive for “high grade” cell growth, she can then consider removing her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Some women may want to have children and not remove those organs. However, in order to remain alive and healthy, a woman can freeze her eggs (so she can have children) before opting to remove her reproductive organs.
MN: Besides removing the reproductive organs, are there other treatments for women of child-bearing age?
CO: No. Depending on what stage the ovarian cancer is in, you may have time to remove the eggs, though it is important to not leave diseased organs in the body and expect to remain healthy. When treating ovarian cancer, most people decide to take the most aggressive approach which is, radiation and a hysterectomy. Radiation helps remove cancer cells and the hysterectomy removes the uterus. By removing your eggs prior to receiving treatment for ovarian cancer, a woman could then look into surrogacy. She may not have carried her child but she’ll be alive to be the child’s mother.
MN: A lot of women say their doctors didn’t detect their cancer until it was too late. Why is that a prevalent complaint?
CO: When a woman has symptoms of ovarian cancer, doctors often treat their symptoms as minor issues. For example, many women who had ovarian cancer complained about bloating or having a large pseudo-baby bump. Most doctors would consider these symptoms of constipation or other digestive tract issues. The only type of doctor that will test to see if you have cancer is a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in diagnosing cancer in the reproductive organs.
For more information on ovarian cancer, its symptoms and treatment plans, visit Colletta Orr’s site, here.