Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that most often occurs in women who are in their 50’s or 60’s. It starts in the ovaries, which are part of the female reproductive system. The ovaries are located on either side of the uterus. It is their job to produce eggs and hormones, like estrogen. They are tiny. Each is only about the size of an almond. This means that cancer in the ovaries often isn’t discovered until it has spread to other parts of the body.
Because treatment for cancer is often more successful when it begins in earlier stages of the disease, knowing the signs associated with ovarian cancer can help your aging relative to get treatment sooner.
What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Part of the reason early stage ovarian cancer is difficult to detect is that it doesn’t usually cause any noticeable symptoms. And, unfortunately, even once the disease is advanced it may only cause symptoms that aren’t very specific and may resemble other conditions.
Some symptoms that can occur with ovarian cancer are:
- Bloating and swelling in the abdomen.
- Feeling full after eating only a little food.
- Losing weight without trying.
- An uncomfortable feeling in the pelvic area.
- Changed bowel habits, like constipation.
- Needing to urinate often.
If your older family member has symptoms that concern them, they should report the symptoms to their doctor.
What Causes Ovarian Cancer?
Cancer starts when DNA in the cells changes or mutates. This makes the cells grow quickly and create a tumor. The cells don’t die when they should, either, living far longer than the natural lifecycle of a normal cell. These abnormal cells can spread to other parts of the body, which is called metastasizing.
Although doctors understand the basic mechanics of cancer, they don’t know what makes some people develop ovarian cancer. They do, however, know of some risk factors that can make getting the disease more likely.
Some risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
- Older age.
- Hereditary gene mutations.
- Family history of ovarian cancer.
- Having received estrogen replacement therapy for an extended time period or in large doses.
- Beginning menstruation at an early age or going through menopause at a late age.
If your aging relative is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, senior care can help them through treatment and recovery. A senior care provider can offer transportation to and from medical appointments, as well as companionship and comfort during chemotherapy treatment. Senior care providers can also help with things around the house, so the senior can get some rest. They can cook, clean, do laundry, and more. In addition, if treatment makes the older adult weak and unstable, a senior care provider can help them to get safely around the house, dress, use the bathroom, and take a bath or shower.