The ovaries are truly one of nature's most beautiful and mind-boggling developments. They produce the ovum that historically results in the miracle of human life. But, as with any part of the body that is complicated and involves multiple processes (and really, which parts do not?), The ovaries are vulnerable to cancerous growths.
Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer in women, claiming around 15,000 lives every year. It develops primarily on the outer wall of the ovaries, known as the epithelium, but can appear in other regions as well. There is no definite cause of the disease, but there are certain identifiable risk factors.
Women who develop ovarian cancer usually share certain characteristics. The most well-documented of these has to do with pregnancy. Women who have their first pregnancy relatively earlier, and who become pregnant more often, and who have their last pregnancy at a later date, are all more likely to live a cancer-free life than women on the other end of this spectrum. It is unknown precisely by what mechanism this takes place. Some birth control pills have also been shown to prevent the cancer, if they are taken on a regular, long-term basis.
As with almost all forms of cancer, it is more likely to appear in people who have a family history of either ovarian cancer, or other forms of non-skin or blood cancers, for example colorectal cancer. Along with this difficulty in predicting who will suffer from the disease is the fact that its symptoms are generalized and reliably void. Conditions that resemble gastrointestinal difficulties-indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhea-may be common across ovarian cancer victims. There are other symptoms, many of which could very well be mistaken for normal conditions of female physiology.
Due to the difficulty with diagnosing this disease in the earlier stages, it is often referred to as the silent killer. A term that references the fact that the disease, before it is detected, is likely to progress to the point where treatment is not very effective. It is not hopeless, however. There are some proven ways to prevent sunset of ovarian cancer even though we do not know its exact cause. Having children earlier in life is one tactic, although this is exactly the opposite trend that we see among educated women today.
Another tactic is to have one's tubes tied. This procedure, known as a tubal ligation, dramatically reduces the chances of getting breast cancer, and it may be an especially good choice for women who have a family history of cancer. Less dramatic methods include daily consumption of birth control pills, or even aspirin (which has been shown to help, but the exact level of benefit is undetermined).
All in all we need to do more as a society to fight this silent killer. With many women waiting to have their children until their later years, it seems that it is even more important now than before to investigate the disease thoroughly.