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SHARE: 6 myths about ovarian cancer and why they're wrong

By MELISSA WELLHAM

It has a higher mortality rate than breast cancer. And three Australian women are diagnosed with this cancer every day.

But despite this, many women still know very little about ovarian cancer, its symptoms, or how it is detected.

The lack of commonplace knowledge of ovarian cancer is particularly surprising when you consider that in 2009, ovarian cancer was the second most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australia. In 2010, ovarian cancer was the most common cause of gynaecological cancer death.

Just as an FYI, this post is sponsored by L’Oreal Paris. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

It accounts for 4.9 per cent of all cancer deaths in women.

Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries, but like other forms of cancer, the cancerous cells can travel through the pelvis and abdomen and grow on other organs such as the bowel. This is known as advanced stage ovarian cancer.

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is not detected in many women until its late stages. This is, in part, because of the many myths about ovarian cancer.

Here are six myths about ovarian cancer that need to be busted. Please share this post with women in your circle, to help raise awareness of this disease that claims the life of one Australian woman every ten hours.

Myth 1: Ovarian cancer is detected through a pap smear.

Pap smears are actually designed to detect cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer. When a doctor suspects that a patient may have ovarian cancer, they will perform a pelvic exam to check for growths or masses on the ovaries. Transvaginal ultrasounds can also be used to detect it, as can blood tests which detect higher levels of protein CA 125 in the blood stream – as this is often the case for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

Myth 2: You need to have a family history of ovarian cancer to develop it yourself.

This is another myth. Only 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancers are inherited. But it’s true that one of the greatest factors that indicate risk is the presence of the inherited mutated genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 – the same genes that Angelina Jolie detected, which motivated her to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy.

Myth 3: There are NO early symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is often called the ‘silent killer’, because many people believe that symptoms only present in late stages of the disease – but this is a misnomer. However, there are early symptoms – the difficulty is that they are often mistaken for signs of other conditions. Common symptoms include bloating, urinary urgency or pelvic discomfort and pain, swelling and bloating, or abdominal pressure.

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Because women often delay asking their GP’s advice about these symptoms, diagnosis can be significantly delayed – and when it is given, the ovarian cancer may have spread already.

Myth 4: Women who’ve had a hysterectomy can’t get ovarian cancer.

This isn’t true. If one, or even both, of the ovaries are preserved, ovarian cancer is still possible. During a hysterectomy, a surgeon usually removes the uterus and the cervix. In some instances, a surgeon will also remove the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. However, even when the ovaries are removed there is a very small chance of developing the disease.

Myth 5: Sexual activity affects chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Some women believe that the number of sexual partners they have had, has something to do with the development of ovarian cancer – but this is completely untrue. The spread of the HPV virus, which can cause cervical cancer and is linked to sexual activity is not connected with ovarian cancer in any way.

Myth 6: Ovarian cancer is always deadly.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, ovarian cancer is the most deadly of all gynecological cancers – but relative survival rates for ovarian cancer have increased in recent years in Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, between the periods 1982-1987 and 2006-2010, the five-year relative survival increased from 32.4 per cent to 43.3 per cent.

It is not always deadly – and that’s why it’s so important that women take any symptoms they may be suffering seriously, and ask their GP for an opinion. The sooner any cancer is detected, the better. Breaking these myths about ovarian cancer will surely help.

In Australia, one woman dies every 10 hours from ovarian cancer. The key to changing this statistic and giving women with ovarian cancer a better long-term outlook is early detection. L’Oréal Paris has been a proud partner of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) since 2009. While awareness of the disease has increased amongst Australians, four in nine women still believe that a pap smear will detect ovarian cancer. The sad reality is that there is no simple early detection test. Ovarian cancer remains a silent killer, with two thirds of women diagnosed in the advanced stage of the disease.

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