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Ovarian Cancer

If you or a friend or relative have been diagnosed with cancer, times ahead may be difficult but not to worry below is some basic information with what lies ahead.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women in the UK. Each year, there are about 6,800 new cases.
Ovarian cancer develops in cells of the ovary. The ovaries are two almond shaped organs located on either side of the uterus (womb). They produce eggs and the female hormones that both regulate the menstrual cycle and are responsible for female body characteristics. About 9 in 10 ovarian cancers form in the cells that line the ovaries.

Risk factors that come with ovarian cancer are:Age
The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age. Most ovarian cancers occur in women after they have gone through the menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 65.

Family history of ovarian, breast, or bowel (colorectal) cancer
Inherited ovarian cancer is rare, as it may account for only around 1 in 20 cases. The risk of getting ovarian cancer is increased if there is a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has or has had the disease, especially if they developed it at a young age. The risk is further increased if there are two or more first-degree relatives who have had the disease. In some ethnic groups such as Ashkenazi Jews, a greater proportion of ovarian cancers is inherited (around 3 in 10).

There are several genetic factors that increase the risk of ovarian cancer, such as inherited gene mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and an inherited disease known as Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC).

Women who have never been pregnant are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who have had children. Women who start having periods at an early age, have the first child after the age of 30 and/or go through the menopause after the age of 50 may have an increased risk. Breast feeding slightly lowers the risk.

Women who have taken oral contraceptives (the pill) have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.Women who have had breast cancer have a slightly greater risk of developing ovarian cancer, as they may carry mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.Prolonged use of fertility drugs, especially if a woman does not get pregnant, might increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

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