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Ovarian cancer - symptoms, causes and alternative treatments

This ovarian cancer overview ´Ovarian cancer - symptoms, causes and treatment alternatives´ - and the associated articles on CANCERactive will give you everything you need to know to help you increase your personal odds of beating ovarian cancer - the symptoms, the diagnosis and all the latest alternatives on treatments and therapies - from cancer drugs, chemotherapy and immunotherapy to surgery, radiotherapy, complementary therapies and alternative ovarian cancer therapies.

Ovarian cancer - increasing your personal odds of survival

Volume 1, Issue 12 coverOvarian cancer is often dubbed ´The Silent Killer´. The reason is because the symptoms often show up late and, on diagnosis, the patient is already deemed stage 3 or stage 4, with metastases to lymph nodes or further afield. 

However, we have had a large number of ladies who have approached us over the past 15 years with their ovarian cancers in just such a state. In a good number of those cases, where the patient was open-minded about using complementary therapies and building an integrative program, we have seen positive results and despite prognoses of just a few months to live they are alive and well many years later. 

One lady we know well, exercises daily, watches her diet carefully and has used complementary therapies and alternative treatments after the orthodox therapies had failed and she was given just three months to live by her oncologist. 

Go to: How Galina beat her Ovarian cancer with CANCERactive

Fifteen years later, Galina is absolutely clear of her ovarian cancer. We put together an Integrative personal program for her. 

But we have others; 12 years on, 9 years - all originally given just 12-18 months. There is so much you can do to empower yourself with ovarian cancer.

You can read more about what people think of these Personal Prescriptions here.

Causes and risk factors for Ovarian Cancer 

Ovarian cancer affects over 7,200 British women every year and worldwide the figure is 180,000 new cases diagnosed, making it the sixth most common form of cancer. It develops mostly in women over 55, and half of all cases occur in women of 65 plus, although one in ten patients, nowadays, will be under 45 and that figure is increasing. Official statistics claim 35% of those diagnosed will be alive 10 years later - but it is better to look into the detail. Seventy per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer find that it has already spread beyond the ovaries, which is why the overall five-year survival rate is low. if your cancer is diagnosed early and has not spread outside the ovary then official US figures show their women have a 94 per cent chance of surviving 5 years (90 per cent in UK).

After being diagnosed, many women, especially in the USA, are tested for hereditary gene mutations. There are  hereditary links and to BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. A 2017 study showed that the repair genes of Lynch syndrome (PMS2, MSH2, MSH6, and MLH1) were also risk factors, Recently a team led by Dr. Lydia Usha felt that mutations  RAD51C, RAD51D, and BRIP1 were the most relevant. All are on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network list(1). However, you should know that there is good research showing that having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation does not affect your survival chances once you have the disease.

Go to: Having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation makes no difference to survival

The most prevalent form of ovarian cancer is known as epithelial ovarian cancer or EOC (a cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary). Much less is known about the rare germ cell (a cancer that begins in egg cells), and stromal ovarian tumours. The ovaries are two grape sized organs, one either side of the uterus. They produce eggs (ova) and the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is possible, though rare, to have the disease confined to just one ovary.

Increased risk has been linked to pregnancy frequency, breastfeeding, early menarche, late menopause and the use of HRT and the oral contraceptive pill.

Inflammation is a significant risk factor and females who have experienced pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis or frequent exposure to talc and asbestos have an increased risk ofovarian cancer (2).

In one study (3) 80% of ovarian cancer patients tested positive for chlamydia but this was not found in any other study.

However, in one of the most important recent studies(4), Scientists at University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre found pathogens in the Upper Reproductive Tract of women with epithelial ovarian cancer. The tract was previously thought to be sterile.

Go to: Pathogens found in upper reproductive tract in ovarian cancer

Importantly, the bacterial composition of the tract (fallopian tubes, ovaries) was completely different in women with cancer to those who were healthy.

Researchers used genetic sequencing to study the types of bacteria present and even found different bacteria present in the fallopian tubes and the ovaries.

Certainly pathogens would cause localised inflammation through their water products. They also produce mRNA - messages that can alter their environment. Thus they are capable of influencing both e development and aggression of the cancer.

Perhaps the presence of pathogens is why we have seen a significant benefit from the use of herbs like artemisinin with ovarian cancer patients. Colonies of bacteria are similar throughout the body. These pathogens are likely to be linked to those in the gut and even the mouth and gums.

Researchers are saying that these findings could be used to provide an early screening and detection method for ovarian cancer.

Screening for Ovarian cancer

The two tests most commonly used in ovarian cancer are the Ca-125 test and Transvaginal Ultrasound (TVUS). The problem is that other health conditions can affect the Ca-125 protein in a blood test, although once you are diagnosed it is a useful tool for showing if your cancer is rising or falling. Many of the anomalies found using TVUS are benign.

So, at the moment there is no definitive test for early diagnosis, although the screening potential is enormous. Dr Veenstra of Frederick in the USA has started using high resolution mass spectrometry to identify if any cancer proteins are present and allow for early detection, while the Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, has shown the presence of Lysophosphatidic Acid (LPA) in higher levels in women developing the disease. A study of over 5000 women at King´s College confirmed that ultrasound could detect many cases of ovarian cancer at an early stage. Yale say they have a test which measures the presence of 4 proteins and is 95 per cent accurate.
Another study at the Royal London and Bart´s Hospital looked at ultrasound combined with a blood test for protein levels of CA125 (which is raised in women with ovarian cancer).

The problem with screening, however, is that false positives are common and false negatives also occur. Also, despite the ´early diagnosis saves lives´ rhetoric, Medics have also yet to establish beyond any doubt that screening would actually save a life. If you are diagnosed earlier, simple maths and logic makes it more likely that you survive 5 years. That is not the same as beating the disease.

So, early days yet, and funding could well be the ultimate issue as every woman at risk will need to be screened and ovarian cancer is just not high up the Medical World´s priorities. Ovarian cancer doesn´t get as much attention as breast cancer because it affects only 17 per cent as many women. Sad, but that´s the way Government Health Departments think.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Once known as the "silent killer" (because it gives few, if any, warning signs at the early stage where treatment can be successful) ovarian cancer is perhaps more usefully described as the "whispering" disease, because women who listen to their bodies carefully may just pick up possibly life-saving signs. These include:

  •  Pelvic or abdominal discomfort and pain
  •  Cramps
  •  Bloating or swelling
  •  Loss of weight or appetite 
  •  Fatigue 
  •  Breathlessness 
  •  Backache 
  •  Urinary problems 
  •  Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  •  Unusual Vaginal bleeding

Ovarian Cancer Action suggest women look for a constant feeling of being bloated and an increase in abdominal girth, without any evidence of weight gain elsewhere. The first symptom is often urinary urgency.

Orthodox ovarian cancer therapies

Surgery1. Ovarian cancer Surgery: Where the cancer has not spread, the most common medical treatment is surgery. A cut is made through the abdominal wall (a laparotomy) and the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the womb are then removed. This is called a total abdominal hysterectomy. This is a major operation and can be extensive. Many doctors in America routinely test the cancer tissue to see whether it is oestrogen positive (ER+ve). This can determine the use of drugs later on - aromatase inhibitors being increasingly used.

Chemotherapy may sometimes be used before surgery to make the tumour more manageable in terms of size. Obviously this total removal has implications for hormone levels (and hence all manner of side effects such as skin tone and hair loss). In pre-menopausal women it means infertility. Surgery is also used to discover the extent of the cancer. Sometimes the doctors do not know whether there is spread or not until they have operated.

In cases where the cancer has spread to the bowel, the surgery may well be accompanied by some removal of the colon and that may, or may not, involve having a temporary ileostomy bag. You should ask your surgeon about this risk, although he may not know the level of spread before he operates.

2. Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer: Most commonly used after surgery, when there is spread or a fear of remaining cancer cells. The most common drugs used are Taxol (paclitaxel) and carboplatin. Cisplatin may be an alternative in some cases and Avastin may be used with the first two drugs, or as a follow up.

Topotecan, gemcitabine and doxorubicin might also be recommended. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.

A huge international study of 477 women with early ovarian cancer from 84 centres in five countries concluded that Carboplatin is the gold standard chemotherapy for these particular ovarian cancer patients, although increasingly it is used with Paclitaxel.

Dr. David Guthrie, an expert in ovarian cancer treatment, explains that even if surgery appears to remove all visible evidence of ovarian cancer, some microscopic deposits may persist and cause a recurrence in about a third of patients even when diagnosed at an early stage.

The key question for oncologists has been whether to wait and see and give chemo only when a recurrence is found, or to give it routinely after surgery. This recent trial however suggests that survival is increased by 9 per cent if Carboplatin is given within six weeks of surgery.

Go to: How to improve the success of your chemo, while reducing side-effects

What is clear is that there is a real risk of women having the chemotherapy and an operation, only to see the return in the perineum, all too quickly. One reason for this could be that the surgery involves large doses of antibiotics and these together with the chemo drugs cause damage to the commensal bacteria. As a result, there is less restriction on pathogens in the tubes, and no control over yeast excesses. Taking yeast killers like oregano oil or caprylic acid along with a good probiotic during surgery and chemotherapy have been shown to restrict yeast excesses. Artemisinin has been shown to be helpful in dealing with pathogens. It is imperative for women having surgery and chemotherapy that they pay attention to their microbiome.

Go to: Heal your Gut; Heal your Body

Ovarian Cancer Immunotherapy - is an increasing option. Immunotherapy is being studied in combination with VEGF inhibitors, PARP inhibitors or other immunotherapy drugs.

PARP inhibitors stop cancers repairing their DNA, and are particularly interesting where patients have a BRCA mutation. In 2014 the FDA approved olaparib, in 2016 rucaparib, and in 2017 niraparib. Several others are in clinical trials.

Women with BRCA mutations who respond to PARP inhibitors seem likely to respond to immunotherapy too. Keytruda (pembrolizumab), a monoclonal antibody, is being studied with ovarian cancer. It binds to specific receptors on immune cells called Programmed Cell Death 1 or PD-1. It is also being studied for use with Avastin and/or cyclophosphamide. Another PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo (Nivolumab) has shown promise in ovarian cancer.

Go to: Overview of Immunotherapy

3. Radiotherapy: This is rarely used for ovarian cancer usually after surgery and chemotherapy have been tried, and to manage pain. The beam can hit other tissues and cause damage and side-effects, which you should ask about. You should also look at our article on how to maximise the effectiveness of your Radiotherapy. 

So does standard orthodox medicine cure ovarian cancer?

You should be aware of the following:

     i). Charn et al in the British Journal of Cancer, (vol 95, Issue 10, in 2006) have concluded from Research at Stamford UCLA, that younger women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a greater chance of 5-year survival. Especially women under 30 although then the researchers admitted there aren´t too many of those!

     ii). The same researchers found that there was no significant survival difference amongst the 16-40 year old child-bearing group whether they had uterine sparing surgery or those who had standard surgery removing the womb as well. So you might as well spare your uterus.

     iii). The Lancet Oncology (Vol 7 Issue 8; 607) reports research on patients having chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The radiotherapy-only route produces a 4-year survival of 63 per cent. The chemotherapy adds nothing at all. The researchers from the cancer centre in Serbia and Montenegro concluded that there was no benefit in having chemotherapy over just radiotherapy.  

4. Treatment for anaemia: Managing and counteracting anaemia can reduce death from anaemia by 50 per cent. Research published by the Cochrane Collaboration showed that epoetins (alfa and beta epoetin) show significant survival benefits. Particularly striking were the results for patients with solid tumours (Breast, lung, colon, ovarian) where risk of death decreased by 51 per cent) In a second study (European Soc. For Medical Oncology- 31st Oct 2005) epotin beta was shown to reduce risk of tumour progression in patients with anaemia 

5. Treatment for fatigue: icon has run several pieces on fatigue. A qualified naturopath will be able to suggest dietary changes to boost energy levels. Qualified homeopaths may be able to suggest ways to counter fatigue. Energy therapists ( eg. acupuncture, cranial osteopaths, Reiki Masters) may well be able to help.

Ovarian cancer, ascites and secondary cancer in the peritoneum or liver

If the Doctors fail to stop the cancer, despite their surgery, their drugs and their radiotherapy, women find their ovarian cancer progresses to the liver or the peritoneum. Ascites can also be a problem.

we have so much on this website that can help you. You can also approach CANCERactive for a Personal Program with Chris Woollams

Go to: What patients say about Personal Prescriptions

Part of the problem is that any issues of yeasts, pathogens or even parasites have been worsened by the drugs and the antibiotics that went with the surgery. You really must take some action.

Go to: All cancer begins in the gut

There are ´alternative´ treatments for your liver, and even cancer in the peritoneum.

For example:

Go to: The Nanoknife

Go to: HIPEK

But nothing beats a disciplined diet and exercise program for survival

Go to: Diet and exercise guidelines to increase survival

Putting together an integrative ovarian cancer treatment plan

There is so much you can do mostly to help yourself. The aim of CANCERactive is to short circuit all the information for you and to empower you to increase your personal odds of survival.

This is also why we have books like ´Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer´; or ´The Rainbow Diet and how it can help you beat cancer´; or ´Oestrogen - the killer in our midst´; and ´Heal your Gut - Heal your Body´

All are relevant to this cancer.

You should also sign up for Chris Woollams e-newsletter. 

Go to: Sign up for the latest news on your cancer

It comes out every two weeks and you will find articles in it such as this:

Go to: Hemp oil slows ovarian cancer spread

Now, let´s first try to understand what is going on, and what factors might be maintaining this cancer, helping it progress in your body.

Increasing your personal odds of survival with Ovarian cancer?

First understand what might have caused this and see whether you can do anything about it.

  1. As we said above, certain risk factors have been officially identified: For example women who have no children are more likely to develop this cancer, and women who start a family after 30 also have a slightly greater risk. Menstruation patterns are also implicated - more monthly periods may increase the risk; women who began their periods before the age of 12, who had a late menopause and did not breastfeed may also have a higher risk.

    Dr. David Guthrie, consultant clinical oncologist at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, stresses that childbearing patterns and ovarian cancer are markedly linked: This cancer is rare in the now scant number of women who have had four or more pregnancies. The unfashionable message seems to be that falling birth rates are bad for ovarian health. However, women who have undergone tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy or had a hysterectomy also seem to have lowered risk, though this is definitely not a reason for choosing surgery!!

  2. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
    So, you may be starting to feel that there is an oestrogen factor at work, just as there has been increasingly shown for many cancers. It is probably the case in about 80% of ovarian cancers. You can do a lot to control your estrogen levels yourself.

    Go to: 
    How to control your estrogen naturally

    The aggressive estrogen can be human or synthetic:

    Red meat

    Oestradiol - is the aggressive human estrogen produced in your fat stores by aromatase enzymes. 

    HRT - Cancer Research UK have at last confirmed what we have been telling people for more than a decade: Taking HRT triples your cancer risk.

    In the Boston Nurses study back in the 90s, HRT increased risk of ovarian cancer by 40 per cent after 7 years and 70 per cent after 11 years. This risk has been confirmed in the US in 2003 and with CRUK´s million women study. Synthetic oestrogen teamed up with synthetic progesten seems worse. (
    NB. Synthetic Progesten has been implicated in the risk of several cancers. Natural Progesterone, which you make yourself, is on the other hand very protective. Please read our article on Natural Progesterone.)

                c) Contraceptive pill - As we warned you in this article for more than a decade, the contraceptive pill is not safe. The low estrogen pills are not safer than the high dose pills of 20 years ago! Another Medical Myth!

    Go to: Even lose dose contraceptive pills increase cancer 

               d) Xeno-oestrogens - eg. Phthalates from plasticisers in bottles, BPA from white can linings, toluene in perfumes and nail polishes, and chemicals in pesticides like DDT and Lindane - have increasingly been found to mimic the action of oestrogen once inside the body. Dr Ana Soto in the USA, one of the World´s leading experts on this subject, has shown that these can have a cumulative effect. They are stored in fatty tissues of the body.

    Go to: Live Clean; remove the chemicals of concern from your life

              e) Overweight women -  are more at risk from cancer in general. Fat stores toxins and hormones you would normally want to excrete, and indicates poor eating habits and a less active lifestyle, all contributory factors.

  3. bbb9There is clear research from both the US and the Karolinska institute that dairy consumption increases ovarian cancer risk. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tracked 61,000 women for 13 years. Women who consumed just a cup of milk a day have an increased risk and women who consumed more than the equivalent of a pint of cows´ milk a day have twice the risk.

  4. There have now been court cases in America with Judgment´s of millions of dollars. We told you 15 years ago that using talcum powder ´down there´ increased your risk of ovarian cancer. The American Courts have agreed. 

  5. There is some research that certain toxins, for example mercury, can heighten risk of this cancer; and there is research on deficiencies of vitamins B-12, folic acid and other B vitamins being linked to increased risk. You should know that a healthy gut helps remove toxins from the body; and the gut bacteria also make your B vitamins.

    Are you sure you don´t have a gut problem - yeasts, a parasite and even a parasite?

    Go to: Heal your Gut - Heal your Body

    6. Since the cancer is so often diagnosed late, a major issue is the reduce the cancer spread. Spread is linked to a fatty liver, and higher levels of Triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood stream according to recent research.

    Go to: The higher your blood fat, the greater metastases

    Inflammation plays a key role in cancer spread, and NSAIDs like a small daily aspirin have been shown in research to reduce inflammation and spread. But there is specific research on the NSAID Indomethacin and how it reduces the 

    Go to: Indomethacin has potential to fight epithelial ovarian cancer

    You should look to reduce fat levels in your liver, and fat levels in your blood stream, and you should look to cut inflammation in your body.

Complementary ovarian cancer therapies and Alternative ovarian cancer therapies?

CANCERactive is Europe´s Number 1 Integrative Cancer Charity. This website alone has more than 4,000 pages of information on it, either as articles or as news stories. More than 10,000 people visit our websites every day. We know from the feed-back we receive just how much we are valued by people trying to beat cancer. 

We believe you can increase your personal odds of cancer survival by taking simple health-enhancing steps and adding both complementary cancer therapies and alternative cancer therapies into your mix of treatments. 

For example, Hyperbaric Oxygen, curcumin, calorie restriction, melatonin, probiotics and whole body hyperthermia have all been shown in research to make chemotherapy work better. It kills more cells! The research is covered on this website. Surely it makes a lot of sense to use them in your personal cancer treatment programme?

We have a complete review of Immunotherapy telling you the accurate figures and what to watch out for. We tell you what is working and when two new drugs have been used, rather than one. It´s a new, emerging and alternative cancer therapy, but not fully there yet!

Go to: A complete review of Immunotherapy  

Then we have an article on how to improve the success of your radiotherapy (and reduce the potential side-effects) – all by adding complementary therapies. Our Guidelines on Diet and Exercise can be found through this link:

Go to: CANCERactive Guidelines on Diet and exercise 

Our recommended anti-cancer diet is the colourful Mediterranean Diet (with its focus on the French paradox):  

Go to: The Rainbow Diet

Like Hippocrates, we believe all cancer begins in the gut and that gut problems, yeast, viral and parasite infections are common constituents of cancer.

Go to: All cancer begins in the gut

But if you just want to look at the most comprehensive list of Complementary Therapies you can find it here:

Go to: CANCERactive Complementary and Integrative cancer therapies

And if you want alternative cancer therapies start here:

Go to: CANCERactive Alternative cancer therapies 

Finally, if you want all this put together for you in one simple plan, why not look into having a Personal Prescription?

Go to: Personal Prescriptions with Chris Woollams

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1.   1. Oncology Times: May 10th, 2017 - Volume 39 - Issue 9 - p 28–29

2.   2.

3.   3. Shanmughapriya etal; Eur j Clin Microbial infec Diseases; 2012 Sept; 31, 2311-7.

4.   4.


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