How ovarian cancer can affect menopause
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
How much do you know about this illness?
Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among people with ovaries.
It accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among people assigned female at birth.
1 in 78 women is at risk of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime.
About half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older.
What is ovarian cancer?
To put it simply, cancer is the rapid overgrowth of cells. When it comes to ovarian cancer, there are three different cells that can develop into a tumor.
Epithelial cell tumors are the most common ovarian tumor and cover the outer surface of the ovary.
Germ cell cancer occurs in the cells that produce eggs within the ovary.
- Sex cord-stromal cell tumors come from the structural tissue cells that also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Not all tumors are malignant and many never spread beyond the ovary. But if a tumor is malignant, it is possible for cancer to spread, or metastasize, to other organs and parts of the body. This can be fatal.
Ovarian Cancer and Menopause
Menopause does not cause ovarian cancer. However, this type of cancer is more common in women over the age of 50 and rarely occurs in women under 40, so menopause and ovarian cancer often correlate. The problem with this is menopause symptoms can either mask those of ovarian cancer or the cancer symptoms can be misinterpreted as those of menopause.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and often go overlooked. Common symptoms include unexpected weight loss, nausea, difficulties eating, bloating, back pain, urgency, abdominal swelling, pelvic pain, persistent constipation, shortness of breath, and irregular vaginal bleeding.
Since detecting ovarian cancer can be difficult due to its correlation with menopause and the subtlety of the symptoms, it’s imperative that you be an advocate for your own health. If you feel like something is abnormal, ask your doctor to test beyond the scope of your yearly check-up to check for cervical, ovarian, and endometrial cancers as they are the most common cancers of the reproductive system.