While not a pleasant subject, cancer is an issue that many will have to encounter at some point in their lives. Whether the diagnosis of cancer is upon themselves, or the diagnosis is upon a beloved family member, the news can be devastating. Cancer of any type can be difficult to treat, but perhaps the hardest cancer to treat would be that of ovarian cancer. Sometimes prevention is the best treatment to a life-threatening condition such as cancer. Thus, the purpose of this article is to outline the steps and lifestyle changes necessary to significantly decrease the risk for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is often a genetic disease, so one of the first steps would be to consider undergoing a genetic test to determine the risk for this type of cancer. Usually requiring some blood testing, this medical exam will assess whether there is a presence of the human genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes, called tumor suppressors, have the propensity to develop harmful mutations that can develop into either breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Consider your ethnicity as well. Individuals with Norwegian, Dutch, Icelandic, or Jewish ancestry can have a higher incidence of the harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. If found to have these two potentially harmful genes, an individual has several options for treatment. They could opt for surgical removal of their ovaries or a tubal ligation. There are also surveillance methods available for the early detection of this cancer, including a trans-vaginal ultrasound or a blood test.
Studies have shown that individuals who were on a birth control pill for an extended period of time, such as five years or more, were at a significantly reduced risk of 22%. Women who were on birth control for fifteen years or more saw a 58% lesser risk of ovarian cancer, and those on birth control for ten to fourteen years saw a 44% reduced risk, and individuals who took contraceptives for six to nine years saw a reduced risk of 36% respectively. There are drawbacks to this strategy however. While taking birth control may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, it has been shown to increase the risk of other types of cancer, such as in the breast and in the cervix. Increased contraceptive use is also not the best option for those who wish to start a family or those who have an increased risk of side effects regarding birth control, such as blood clots.
The act of bearing children can also have a positive effect in lowering the risk of getting the disease. Studies have shown that individuals who procreate, particularly those who breastfeed, have a reduced risk for ovarian cancer. One other important mainstay to avoiding cancer of all types is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating foods that are rich in fiber, exercising more, and limiting the intake of alcohol can all significantly reduce cancer risk. Don’t forget to consider the personalized care of an experienced medical expert when weighing your options for ovarian cancer prevention as well.