Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of death (cancer related) in women, after breast, lung and bowel cancer. Over 7,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK.
The ovaries are small organs located on either side of the uterus. In women of child-bearing age, the ovaries produce an egg every month that is either fertilized or removed from the body via the menstrual cycle. Aside from this important job, these organs also produce and regulate the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
As with any other organ, ovaries are susceptible to various types of cancers, the most common being epithelial ovarian cancer. Many of these cancers have a genetic component, so it’s worth noting that women with family members who have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer are more at risk.
Most women diagnosed with this condition are over 45 and have been through the menopause. Unfortunately, most of these diagnoses come in the later stages of the cancer’s development, when it has already spread to other parts of the body. However, if the cancer is caught in the early stages, it can usually be treated quite successfully. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, up to 90 per cent of women would survive five years or more.
England has the lowest survival rate for ovarian cancer in Europe.