Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month runs throughout March
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women. There are 7,000 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed in the UK every year. Over 4,000 patients per year will die of their disease.
Ovarian cancer often presents late (when the disease has already spread) which makes treatment less effective, with a consequent reduction in cure rates.
If the disease is identified at an early stage, before it has spread, then cure rates increase up to 90% in all cases. It is therefore very important for women to be aware of the early symptoms. These symptoms are non specific which is an added factor in leading to a delay in diagnosis.
Symptoms include abdominal swelling and bloating, a feeling of fullness after eating small amounts, indigestion and frequency of passing urine.
As part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout March, Mr Gareth Beynon, Consultant Gynaecologist, practising at Spire Clare Park Hospital in Farnham, welcomes this initiative.
Mr Beynon states the following:
“The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidance to GPs in April 2011 with their recommendation for initial assessment of women with symptoms suggestive of early ovarian cancer.
The NICE guidance states, that those women, particularly if aged 50 or over, should have a blood test (serum CA125) in the first instance. An abdominal and pelvic assessment may also be performed. A raised CA125 level does not definitely indicate ovarian cancer but should lead to an ultrasound examination of the ovaries.
Ovarian cancer is commonest in the 55-65 age groups but may affect women of all ages.
The cause is unknown but contributory factors include frequency of ovulation, and a family history of breast and or ovarian cancer.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene defects have been identified in women with breast and ovarian cancer. A positive test for one of these defects can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer for up to 80% of women.
Genetic testing is becoming increasingly available to high risk women especially those who have had certain types of breast cancer or have a relative with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene defect.
At this time there is no screening for ovarian cancer which has proven to be beneficial.
The only intervention shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer is the surgical removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries in high risk women. This can be performed as keyhole surgery and would necessitate a consultation with a Consultant Gynaecologist who has a special interest in this area”.
Mr Gareth Beynon has a long standing interest in prevention of ovarian cancer and has taken part in national studies of familial ovarian cancer screening. He works closely with clinical geneticists who refer women who are at high risk, for consideration of surgery.
Mr Beynon has developed a unique operation to remove ovaries via vaginal keyhole surgery thus reducing surgical complications and leading to a quicker recovery and reduced pain. The operation does not lead to any scarring of the abdomen.
Women are advised to seek medical advice if they develop any of the symptoms mentioned above in the hope that this will lead to earlier detection and a greater chance of cure.