February 22, 2023

Teal Ribbon Day: Ovarian Cancer Awareness

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and today, 22 February, is Teal Ribbon Day. During this time, the aim is to support those affected by ovarian cancer and raise awareness.

Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour in one or both ovaries and is the eighth most common cancer in Australia. According to Cancer Council Australia, it is estimated that more than 1,300 people were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2022.

“Ovarian cancer is a general term to describe a cancer starting in one or both ovaries. Cancers that start in the fallopian tubes or the peritoneal lining together with cancers starting in the ovaries are considered to be part of a single entity and often all generalised under the common term of ovarian cancer,” said Northern Health Medical Oncologist, Dr Vishal Boolell.

Ovarian cancer can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages as symptoms can often be non-specific or similar to those of other diseases.

These can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain and frequent urination. Other less common symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion and back pain.

In Dr Boolell’s experience as a medical oncologist, women can also present with symptoms such as abnormal build-up of fluid, bowel obstruction and blood clots in the legs and/or lungs.

While more research is required to better understand the causes of ovarian cancer, there are no tests, screening or preventive measures that can help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women.

“The average age of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 64 with the majority of patients diagnosed after the age of 50. There are also familial cancer syndromes, which convey a much higher risk of developing ovarian cancer,” said Dr Boolell.

“In some patients with a known familial cancer syndrome, a preventative surgery may be offered in the form of a surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.”

Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed by a combination of preliminary tests performed by a doctor, including a pelvic exam, radiological tests, blood tests and ultimately, a surgical biopsy.

For more information on ovarian cancer, visit the Cancer Council website.

Featured in the image: Dr Vishal Boolell (Medical Oncologist)