Ovarian cancer refers to malignant growth arising from different parts of the ovaries. The ovaries are part of a woman’s reproductive system, where the eggs are developed. Most ovarian cancers are classified as ‘epithelial’ – arising from the surface of the ovary. Other types arise from the egg cells (germ cell tumour) or supporting cells (sex cord/stromal).
What Causes This Cancer and Who are at risk?
The risk factors of ovarian cancer include:
- Late pregnancy
- Early onset of menstruation
- Late menopause
- Never had children
- History of breast cancer
- Genetic predisposition
- Endometriosis, where tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside instead
Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women in Singapore. There were a total of 1,506 cases diagnosed from year 2007 to 2011 based on the Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Registry Report. It is the second most common female genital tract cancer.
Age of Onset
Epithelial ovarian cancer usually affects older women although it can also happen to younger women. Germ cell cancers of the ovary occur more frequently in younger women.
Ovarian cancer is known to run in some families with BRCA gene abnormalities or Lynch syndrome.
Families with BRCA gene abnormalities may have increased risk of getting ovarian, breast and uterine cancer. Families with Lynch syndrome may have increased risk of getting ovarian, uterine and colorectal cancer. In this case, women with a sister or mother with Lynch syndrome are 20 times more likely to develop ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer also runs in certain families with a history of breast and colon cancers. There is now evidence to suggest that certain genes are involved in causing these diseases.