Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women in Hong Kong, and tends to hit patients in their 50s. The Hong Kong Cancer Registry recorded 651 cases in 2017, up from 598 a year earlier and 578 in 2015.
Dr Tse Ka-yu, a clinical associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Hong Kong, says there are several factors that could explain the rise in incidence.
“Total cancer cases in general are increasing as society is ageing,” Tse says. “Ovarian cancer tends to happen in peri- or post-menopausal women.”
The disease is “a silent killer”, she stresses, as some patients don’t experience symptoms until the late stage. One of these symptoms may be bloating. In later stages, women may feel more tired than usual, experience a loss of appetite, weight loss, or a shift in bowel habits – such as visiting the loo often but not passing anything.
“In general, if detected early, the five-year survival rate is around 80 to 90 per cent,” says Tse. However, no good screening exists for ovarian cancer, and there is a lack of evidence on the usefulness of ultrasounds and a CA 125 (a test which measures the amount of the protein cancer antigen 125 in your blood).