What you Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

November 12, 2012

What you Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

Are you familiar with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations and what that causes? Are you familiar with DNA repair mechanisms? Do you know what this has to do with ovarian cancer?

Are you aware that ovarian cancer is the most common cause of gynecologic cancer death? The average lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is reported to be 1 in 70 and the average age at diagnosis is 63. Given these odds it’s important to be armed with some knowledge. Did you know that there are 3 types of ovarian cancer? These are known as epithelial, germ cell and sex-cord stromal tumors. The most common form is epithelial as they account for 90 percent of all ovarian cancer. Since epithelial cancer is the most common, this article will focus there.

Are you at Risk?

There are many risk factors for ovarian cancer and they include polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, infertility, never been pregnant, late menopause and early menstruation. If ovarian or breast cancer runs in your family, this increases your risk however, only 10 percent of these cancers is hereditary.

Genetic Risk

Research indicates that there are two inherited (genetic predispositions) for ovarian cancer. The first one is known as BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). BRCA1 (breast cancer 1) involves a caretaker gene that produces a breast cancer type 1 susceptibility protein. This protein is responsible for repairing damaged DNA. The BRCA1 gene is expressed in breast and ovarian tissues. If this gene mutates, damaged DNA cannot be repaired and this increases your chance of getting cancer. BRCA2 (breast cancer 2 susceptibility protein) is another protein which belongs to the tumor suppressor gene family. The protein produced by this gene is responsible for repairing chromosomal damage in terms of double stranded breaks. Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) involves a gene that has mutated. This gene codes for a protein that supports DNA mismatch repair. This gene is also expressed in ovarian tissue.

How to Protect Yourself

There are a number of ways you can lower your risk of developing ovarian cancer. According to the medical community, taking the birth control pill for 5 years can reduce your risk by 50 percent. Breastfeeding, tubal ligation and hysterectomy reduce your risk as well. Removal of the oviducts (fallopian tubes) and ovaries also reduce your chances of cancer.

If you know you have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, experts suggest that you have your tubes and ovaries removed after your childbearing years.

Cancer Symptoms

There are symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include: pelvic or abdominal pain, bloating or an increase in abdominal size, a sense of being full and sudden urges to urinate. These symptoms usually occur for 12 days out of the month and present for one year.

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