Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More S'porean women getting ovarian cancer

More S'porean women getting ovarian cancer
26 July 2011
Straits Times
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Reduced child-bearing a main cause for rise in illness' occurrence

WITH women putting off pregnancy and having fewer or no children at all nowadays, ovarian cancer has
become more common.

For every 100,000 women here, 15.5 will come down with this disease, a rate more than twice that of 40
years ago.

This trend is not unique to Singapore; it is also being seen in developing and newly developed countries
where women have begun putting off having children in order to build their careers.

Associate Professor Tay Eng Hseon, the medical director of Thomson Women Cancer Centre,
described the trend as 'alarming', coming as it does among a trio of women's cancers on the rise, in
tandem with reduced child-bearing.

The three cancers are ovarian cancer, breast cancer and uterine or womb cancer.

Of the three, ovarian cancer - the fifth most common cancer among women here - is of the greatest concern, he said, because no effective screening process exists for it.

It has no symptoms, and unlike uterine cancer, ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed only in the
advanced stages, he added.

Seven in 10 women are diagnosed only after the cancer has spread; by this time, it is very difficult to
treat it successfully.

The cancer is triggered by the rapid growth and division of cells within one or both ovaries, the
reproductive glands that produce eggs and female sex hormones.

Under normal circumstances, the ovaries contain cells that reproduce to maintain tissue health, but
when these cells divide too quickly, a tumour results.

It is not known what causes ovarian cancer, but family history is an important factor when estimating a
woman's risk of ovarian cancer.

Another factor is reduced child-bearing. Prof Tay said women who have delivered two or more children
and those who have used birth-control pills to suppress ovulation for five years or more can halve their
risk of this cancer.

Associate Professor Marcela del Carmen of the Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States
said that even those who have had this cancer before face a 75 per cent recurrence rate within two

Specialists were attending a meeting here over the weekend to evaluate findings from Calypso, the
largest clinical trial done on recurrent ovarian cancer.

The trial, involving nearly 1,000 women, was carried out in several countries to test the effectiveness
and safety of the combination of new drugs, compared with the standard treatment for relapsed ovarian


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