Do you remember when, four years ago, Angelina Jolie announced that she had had a double mastectomy? It caused many cynical comments and a lot of judgement mostly because she is a celebrity. Two years later the actress also announced that “I have entered the menopause”, which came as a result of removing her ovaries and fallopian tubes. I personally know so many women who felt ashamed and disapproved of Angelina Jolie’s decision to publicly speak about such private and emotionally painful issues and especially about removing parts of her body and organs that are associated with femininity and sex-appeal. I on the other hand was deeply moved and stunned by her courage to challenge her public image and the cliche of what makes a woman sexy. No matter her well written calm and plain-speaking article in the New York Times at the time, I could still feel her emotional and physical pain trickling down through her words and her fear and trauma from the loss of her mother and grandmother. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to live under the shadow of cancer.
What Angelina Jolie did was a brave act that raised awareness and made women understand that they have strong options when they take action instead of burying their heads in the sand. We were reminded that we can’t postpone educating ourselves about cancer and its prevention, about women’s health overall.
With this in mind, we at Mums in Heels would like to make you all aware of “Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month”. Did you know that ovarian cancer is called the silent killer? Did you know why? While the suspicion of breast and uterine cancer is commonly aroused by the presence of a breast lump or unexpected bleeding that will make you go and check yourself, there isn’t that luxury with ovarian cancer, which is often caught once cancer has progressed and is hard to treat. In fact, only 15% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at stage one.
Women with the BRCA mutations* have an up to 50% greater chance of developing this type of cancer, and there are no good ways of screening for it; a blood test that picks up a protein common to ovarian tumours isn’t specific to cancer, so it could provide false positive or false negative results. In most cases, the cancer is well advanced before doctors, or patients, even know it’s there.
Below are some tips and facts on Ovarian Cancer prevention. For more information visit Consumersafety.org
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In brief: Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause few and nonspecific symptoms that are often mistaken for more common benign conditions, such as constipation or irritable bowel.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Quickly feeling full when eating
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- A frequent need to urinate
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your risk of ovarian cancer. Your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor to discuss testing for certain gene mutations that increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Only a small number of women are found to have genetic mutations that can lead to ovarian cancer.
*BRCA mutations: BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. There are two BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. Normally, they help protect you from getting cancer. But when you have changes or mutations on one or both of your BRCA genes, cells are more likely to divide and change rapidly, which can lead to cancer.