Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms and Preventive Actions

Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms and Preventive Actions
Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms and Preventive Actions

Dr. Vinay Bhatia-Head Molecular Biology, Oncquest Laboratories, Gurugram


Ovarian cancer often remains undetected until it reaches an advanced stage. It arises when abnormal cells within the ovaries or fallopian tubes start multiplying uncontrollably, posing a serious threat to a woman’s health.

The ovaries, two small, almond-sized organs in the female reproductive system, play a crucial role in a woman’s reproductive years. They produce both eggs (ova) and essential hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. However, when cancerous cells begin to grow and proliferate in these delicate organs, it can lead to ovarian cancer, a complex disease that demands immediate attention.

Further, let’s study the symptoms of ovarian cancer and explore ways to protect ourselves from this potentially life-threatening disease.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is notorious for being a silent disease in its early stages, often causing no discernible symptoms. As a result, it frequently goes undiagnosed until it has reached an advanced and more challenging-to-treat phase. When symptoms manifest, they are often mistakenly attributed to other, more common conditions.

Key symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of ovarian cancer are persistent bloating or swelling in the abdominal area, feeling full rapidly while eating, an unexplained drop in weight without changes in diet or exercise, regular discomfort or pain in the pelvic region, unexplained fatigue and weakness, chronic lower back pain, disturbed bowel functioning, and frequent urination.


Diagnosing ovarian cancer is a multi-step process that involves several tests and procedures such as pelvic exam, where a healthcare provider uses gloved fingers to assess the reproductive organs manually, and imaging tests like ultrasound and CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis. Other methods to detect ovarian cancer are blood tests and genetic testing. In some cases, a definitive diagnosis cannot be made until surgery is performed to remove an ovary or ovarian tissue for a thorough examination. This procedure helps confirm the presence of cancerous cells.

While BRCA1/2 mutations were initially thought to be responsible for the majority of hereditary epithelial ovarian cancers, further investigation has shown that compromise of the HR pathway can occur by several other potential mechanisms. Thus, it is thought that approximately 50% of high-grade serous ovarian cancers have a deficiency in HR. The use of molecular testing to direct diagnosis and treatment options in ovarian tumours has rapidly expanded in recent years, in particular with regard to the recommendation for routine homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) testing in all patients with high-grade ovarian epithelial tumours.

 Prevention and protection

Preventing ovarian cancer remains a complex challenge, but individuals can take steps to potentially lower their risk. First and foremost, regular check-ups and pelvic exams are essential. Additionally, for women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, genetic counselling and testing can help assess their risk and guide appropriate interventions. Moreover, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also play a role in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. Eating a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while minimizing the consumption of processed foods may be beneficial. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight can also contribute to overall well-being.

Final thought

Understanding ovarian cancer symptoms and seeking prompt medical attention when they arise are critical steps in early detection and treatment. While ovarian cancer remains a challenging health concern, proactive healthcare and a disciplined lifestyle can empower individuals in their fight against this chronic disease. Regular screenings, genetic testing when appropriate, and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle can provide valuable tools in the on-going battle to protect ourselves from ovarian cancer.

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