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Routine screening key for early detection of ovarian cancer: Experts

IANS Apr 01, 2024

Even as ovarian cancers are diagnosed at a later stage, routine screening programmes can help in the early detection of the deadly cancer, which is known to be the fifth most common cause of death in women, health experts said on 30 March.

Ovarian cancer is dangerous because it often goes undetected until it has spread beyond the ovaries, and the symptoms can also be attributed to other conditions.

The incidence of ovarian cancer in India is influenced by multiple factors.

“One important contributing cause is the absence of routine screening programmes and early detection techniques, which frequently results in diagnosis at advanced stages with few treatment options and a dismal prognosis,” said Dr Kanav Kumar, a Surgical Oncologist at the Punyashlok Ahilyadevi Holkar Head & Neck Cancer Institute of India, Mumbai.

Timing diagnosis and treatment is often made more difficult by the restricted availability of healthcare services, especially in rural areas.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of death in women, and that is because ovarian cancers are diagnosed at a later stage.

“There are no good ways of catching this early so we can do a C125 estimation. It's not very sensitive or very specific for ovarian cancer. It can be attributed to different conditions. the majority of patients will present at a later stage,” said Dr Pritam Kataria, Consultant Medical Oncology at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital.

And so, there is a likelihood of missing out on these patients when they arrive there is a higher risk of mortality associated with this disease when they are diagnosed.

Studies have shown that ageing and menopause can increase the spread of ovarian and other cancers.

Dr Kumar explained it is because a woman tends to accumulate genetic mutations and gets environmentally exposed to various carcinogens.

“Older age at menopause (longer reproductive life) is also associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, due to the increased number of ovulations and a higher exposure to reproductive hormones (oestrogens and progesterones),” Dr. Kumar explained.

Ovarian cancer risk factors also include obesity, endometriosis, and the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), particularly if HRT is used for a long time.

Women nearing menopause should be careful with any symptoms like a lump in the abdomen or lump in the breast or changes in bowel habits or postmenopausal bleed or something related to a bloating sensation in the stomach.

"These could be some signs and symptoms of the different cancers, notably the ovarian cancers,” said doctors.

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