Aggressive ovarian cancer on the rise in women here

PHOTO: Aggressive ovarian cancer on the rise in women here

SINGAPORE - The symptoms are vague and survival rates of sufferers are low.

Clear cell carcinoma, the most aggressive of all ovarian cancers, made up at least 13.4 per cent of ovarian cancer sufferers in 2007, up from 5.2 per cent in 1988.

The Straits Times reported that less than 40 per cent of women who get it survive, compared to the 70 per cent survival rate of other types of ovarian cancer when it is discovered early.

In a study of 256 ovarian cancer patients led by Associate Professor Tay Sun Kuie of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), it was found that symptoms for clear cell carcinoma are vague, but it tends to occur in women who have painful and irregular periods and who are mysteriously losing weight or their appetite.

The study also found that women who were never pregnant are 14 per cent more likely to get this aggressive cancer, compared with ovarian cancer patients who had at least one child.

Patients who have this type of cancer are also five times more likely to have endometriosis than those with other types of ovarian cancer. Endometriosis is a condition where the womb lining responsible for menstruation is found outside the womb. It leads to severe menstrual cramps, chronic pain in the pelvic region and infertility.

And even if the patient underwent treatment early, up to 80 per cent of sufferers fail to improve.

Prof Tay said he hoped that the study would help doctors to better diagnose this type of cancer by pointing out the various links, such as its higher incidence rate when endometriosis is present.

He also asked women to be more aware of changes in their bodies, such as when they experience an unexplained loss of appetite and worsening symptoms of endometriosis and seek medical advice early.