KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 – Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wants high-risk women in Malaysia to be aware of early symptoms for ovarian cancer, as widespread screening for ovarian cancer remains inadvisable due to limited evidence that it significantly saves lives.
Factors that increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women include getting older and inherited faulty genes. Other risk factors include being overweight, having chronic diseases such as diabetes, using hormonal medication after menopause, and having irregular period cycles.
According to Cancer Research UK, the risk of ovarian cancer increases steeply from around 45 years, and is greatest in those aged between 75 and 79 years.
Between five and 15 out of 100 ovarian cancers (5 to 15 per cent) are caused by an inherited faulty gene. Women with a mother or sister diagnosed with ovarian cancer are three times at risk of ovarian cancer compared to women without a family history.
Ovarian cancer symptoms also include weight loss, abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, and fatigue, among others.
“General population screening for ovarian and tubal cancer with the screening strategies that are available cannot be recommended based on evidence to date because the reduction in Stage Three or Four disease incidence was not sufficient to translate into lives saved – this is based on experiences from other countries, either through multimodality screening (MMS) or ultrasound screening (USS).
“As (general) screening did not significantly reduce ovarian and tubal cancer deaths, general population screening cannot be recommended,” Khairy told a media briefing following an engagement session with hospital directors at the Hospital Directors Conference in Petaling Jaya today.
“So, the best is really to create awareness in terms of early signs until we have a more effective screening method for ovarian cancer. And that is, of course, something that will depend on a lot of research to find better screening methods for ovarian cancer,” Khairy added.
Khairy said the majority of women in Malaysia (over 80 per cent) are detected at Stages Three and Four upon presentation to clinicians. “This is a problem that we need to look at for earlier detection – better screening – which unfortunately, is not too reliable right now, even in other countries.”
Actress and singer Adibah Noor died of ovarian cancer on June 18, at the Gleneagles Hospital in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. She was 51.