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Ovarian Cancer: The Forgotten One

Filed Under: Women's Health at 9:12 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Ovary DiagramAs women, we are constantly warned of the dangers of breast cancer. We are taught to check regularly for lumps and changes. We are told that breast cancer can kill us, that hundreds of thousands of us will be diagnosed with it and that we have to be careful, aware. We are also overrun with information about skin cancer, lung cancer and brain cancer. Even cancers that don’t affect us are brought to our attention. We know risk factors, prevention methods, symptoms and treatment variations for almost every cancer, except for one: ovarian.

Ovarian cancer is something of a silent killer. Its symptoms – abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating, urinal urgency and pelvic discomfort – are often attributed to other conditions. While women are treated for a digestive or urinal disorder, their symptoms persist, grow stronger, and the cancer spreads.  It’s not until the disease has advanced considerably that many doctors are able to diagnose it. At which point, treatment options are limited and complicated. Unfortunately, the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown. Doctors can merely spread awareness and information on risk factors – being over 60, going through puberty early or menopause late, being overweight, having no children and having a personal/family history of breast or ovarian cancer.  It seems fairly daunting and unavoidable, if fated, but it’s not. There may be some help.

Researchers recently followed 49,000 postmenopausal women for eight years. Of the women, approximately 20,000 were asked to reduce their fat intake.  They were told to consume diets with only 20 percent fat, five servings of fruits and vegetables and at least six servings of whole grains. Calorie consumption was not specified. During the first four years, no change developed. However, in the final four, the women who had altered their diets showed a 40 percent reduction in ovarian cancer risk. Their healthy choices – low fat, high fiber – had provided them protection against a deadly disease.  So, what does this mean for you? It means that you have one more reason to alter your diet for the better. It also means that you have a tool against a quiet cancer. You can help fight a disease that, while not as common as breast cancer, kills 15,000 women every year.

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