What is ovarian cancer?


Recently it was ovarian cancer awareness month. Given that this is the fifth most common cancer in Singapore, we thought that we would put together a few facts about ovarian cancer and give you a checklist of some things to look out for. First thing’s first – check your expat health cover to make sure that all testing and treatment of cancer is part of your international health insurance package. If you aren’t sure, give us a call today and we will have a look for you.

The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system and sit at the end of the Fallopian tubes. This is where eggs are dispersed during ovulation into the Fallopian tubes. You might be at a higher risk of contracting ovarian cancer if:

– You started menstruating early

– You had pregnancies a bit later

– If you have never had children

– If you have a history of breast cancer or a family history of breast cancer

– If you have endometriosis (where the tissue that usually grows on the inside of the uterus builds up on the outside instead).

These are just things to watch out for, so just keep checking up with your GP or expat health care provider if any of these apply to you. We highly recommend getting a regularly yearly health check where you can keep on top of any of these concerns with your doctor.

How do I check to see if I have ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is one of those harder to detect cancers that we need to be more mindful of.

A lot of the symptoms are things that women report to feeling anyway and this makes it hard to diagnose early. It is helpful to watch out for changes in the following:

– Bloating and swelling of the abdomen

– Gas and indigestion

– Loss of appetite

– Back pain

Sometimes when these symptoms manifest, the cancer can already be quite advanced. Your doctor can diagnose ovarian cancer in several ways. A pelvic examination and an ultrasound would mostly likely be used initially. Seeing as the ovaries are difficult to access, it is most likely that there would be some surgery and blood tests that would be done as part of the diagnosis.  Most expat health insurance packages include cancer screenings, but best to check and make sure. Let us know if you would like some help with this.

The cancer is detected by a blood test that measures the protein CA 125. This is a protein that is found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells and a high reading (80% and over) could mean that a tumor is growing. This blood test will need to be done in conjunction with a biopsy or surgery, just to be certain. Being aware and getting yearly health check-ups is the best way to stay on top of everything, so make sure that these are part of your expat medical insurance benefits. The International Medical Clinic group has an extensive range of health check packages, so you should easily find what you need there.

What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?

If the cancer is caught early, usually surgery can be an effective removal. Depending on how far the tumor has progressed will depend on the treatment. If it has gone beyond the ovaries, then the Fallopian tubes and uterus may be removed. When the cancer is aggressive or if it has gone beyond the reproductive system, then chemotherapy will be used as well. If detected early, the survival rates for ovarian cancer are optimistic. As with all cancers, the more it progresses, the harder it becomes to treat.

It might be worth checking your critical illness insurance and seeing what you are covered for if you did need to take some time off to recover from treatment. Cancer is on the increase, but treatment is more successful. Again, just being aware and getting checked regularly is the best prevention. If you would like to check on your critical illness cover, just give us a call. It’s handy to have, just in case.

None of this is medical advice, so, please check with your doctor if you have any questions. Awareness and getting regular check-ups are important. If you would like to know more about what your international health insurance includes, give us a call today.

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