Ovarian cancer, one of the most deadly gynecologic cancers, is often overlooked and under-diagnosed. In this, the cells in the ovary begin to proliferate abnormally, and form a tumor. There are numerous misconceptions about it that may put a woman’s life in danger. The developing ovarian cancer, in its early stages, is difficult to screen for.
Females who are terrified of their recent ovarian tumor diagnosis may be unaware of the facts. The lack of awareness may instill fear in the minds, and lead to confusion and all kinds of misconceptions. So, it’s time to bust the myths, and highlight the facts about cancer that begins in the ovaries.
Myth 1: Pap test can detect ovarian tumor
There is a rumor that the pap test (also called pap smears) screens for ovarian cancer. The truth is that a pap smear screens for cervical cancer and not ovarian cancer. In fact, there is no single test that can reliably detect ovarian cancer in its early or pre-symptomatic stages.
Myth 2: Ovarian cysts always turn into ovarian tumor
An ovarian cyst may sound quite scary, but it isn’t so. Having an ovarian cyst does not mean that a patient has ovarian cancer. It is common for many females to develop ovarian cysts or benign ovarian tumors at some point during their reproductive years. The good news is that most of the ovarian cysts are harmless, non-cancerous, and usually disappear on their own without any treatment.
Myth 3: Using talcum powder triggers ovarian cancer
There is a myth that women who apply talcum powder regularly in the genital area have a raised risk of developing ovarian tumors. The powder may enter the body, irritate the tissues in the fallopian tubes or ovaries, and trigger inflammation. This cascade of responses in the body may contribute to the occurrence of ovarian cancer. But don’t get drawn into the hype!
Till now, no evidence has clearly confirmed a significant link between talcum powder use and increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Myth 4: The CA-125 blood test is a reliable screening test for cancer of the ovary
The cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) blood test measures the amount of sugar-associated protein called CA-125 in the blood. Many females suffering from ovarian cancer have raised levels of CA-125, which could be a sign of ovarian cancer. But, this blood test has not been witnessed to be a reliable screening test for ovarian tumors since the levels can also be commonly raised by other conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even pregnancy.
Also, not everyone who has an ovarian tumor has a raised CA-125 level. This blood test is usually used as a guidance for doctors during the treatment of ovarian cancer since a rise in CA-125 often goes down if the therapy is working, but it cannot accurately diagnose ovarian tumor.
Myth 5: HPV vaccine helps to prevent ovarian cancer
Some people believe that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine aids to prevent ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, this vaccine does nothing to prevent ovarian tumors. The truth is that HPV vaccine helps to lower the risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-linked cancers (vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers), but not ovarian cancer. Currently, there is no effective vaccine available to combat ovarian cancer.
Myth 6: Gene mutations to BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes raise risk of breast cancer only
According to the National Cancer Institute, females testing positive for the BRCA1 mutation have a 55-72% lifetime high risk of getting breast cancer and a 45-69% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer. Females testing positive for the BRCA2 mutation have a 39-44% lifetime chance of getting breast cancer and a 11-17% lifetime risk of suffering from ovarian cancer.
Myth 7: Most females with ovarian cancer have a family history of the disease.
Not true! Family heredity only accounts for a mere 10-15% of ovarian cancer cases.
Myth 8: Ovarian cancer doesn’t affect young females
Since most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in females over the age of 50, it is often believed to be an older woman’s disease. However, it may affect younger women too (though a rare incidence).
Ovarian cancer, a deadly cancer of the female reproductive system, is treatable and may or may not be fatal depending on numerous factors like genes, age, immunity, health etc. Misinformation about this cancer is prevalent. So, be aware of all the potential risk factors that may trigger ovarian cancer.
It is crucial to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and to report them to your medical care provider as promptly as possible. Talk to a professional medical expert about ways to minimize the risk of developing cancer in the ovary, especially if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, or have BRCA2 or BRCA1 genetic mutations.
Investigators continue to look for a reliable screening tool for ovarian tumors. But, currently there are no effective screening tests. As medical science and technology progress, a growing number of novel therapeutic options are emerging to combat ovarian cancer. The right treatment can aid you steer through such a grave condition.