The onset of ovarian cancer can be disguised as minor stomach discomfort.
The fifth most common cancer in Singaporean women rarely has early signs and the symptoms – such as bloating, pelvic pain and discomfort, abdominal distension, loss of appetite and change in bowel habits – can be vague. Thus, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. To reduce the risk, it’s important to note one’s family medical history and other risk factors. Dr Lim Hwee Yong, senior consultant oncologist at Novena Cancer Centre, shares more.
WHO IS AT RISK?
It mainly affects older women. About half of those diagnosed with ovarian cancer are above 60 years of age. Those who are obese, have never given birth or were pregnant at a later age, had early onset of menstruation or late menopause, and those with a family history of some cancers, are also at greater risk.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
When ovarian cancer is found early at a localised area, the cure rate with treatment becomes very much higher and may approach more than 85 percent long-term survival.
Surgery remains an important treatment for early-stage ovarian cancer. In more advanced stages, cancer debulking surgery may also be performed. Chemotherapy is another effective treatment. Epithelial ovarian cancer often shrinks in response to chemotherapy and may even seem to disappear with treatment.
ARE THERE NEW THERAPIES? WHAT’S IN STORE FOR PATIENTS?
In recent years, there has been significant progress in molecular targeted chemotherapeutic treatments, with heightened response to treatment. Good control of the side effects of chemotherapy nowadays can also be readily achieved, with the advent of new supportive medications.
To give an example, one of our late-stage patients went through chemotherapeutic treatment and a combination of cytotoxic and molecular targeted therapy. After three cycles of chemotherapeutic treatment, the cancer showed evidence of almost complete remission. Today, a year later, the patient maintains an active lifestyle. With effective treatment options, late-stage patients have a better chance for high-quality, active and meaningful lives.
For more information, visit Novena Cancer Centre, #09-41, 38 Irrawaddy Road.