AstraZeneca, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies has marked World Ovarian Cancer Day in the Sultanate of Oman in collaboration with the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH).An awareness drive was carried to highlight the importance of early detection of ovarian cancer, key disease information while also educating healthcare practitioners on methods of detecting ovarian cancer. Education materials for doctors, patients as well as hospital visitors were distributed across the university hospital throughout the awareness week, which runs between the 8th and 12th May.Moreover, SQUH has also planned to organize an interactive session at the Grand Hayatt Hotel on Saturday 12 May 2018, which aims to provide updates to the medical community as well as patient and community awareness. The underlying aim is to establish a patient support group from ovarian cancer survivors across the Sultanate.The female reproductive system contains two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat. Early-stage ovarian cancer, in which the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated successfully.In Oman, the disease is the seventh most common cancer in women. Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause few and nonspecific symptoms that are often mistaken for more common benign conditions.Dr. Marwa Al Riyami Consultant Histopathologist at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital said, “Ovarian cancer is a complex disease.The type of cell where the cancer begins determines the type of ovarian cancer patients develop. Ovarian cancer types are Epithelial tumors, which begin in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries; Stromal tumors, which begin in the ovarian tissue that contains hormone-producing cells; and Germ cell tumors, which begin in the egg-producing cells. About 90% of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors.”  “Being aware of the frequency and combination of certain symptoms can help with early diagnosis. If detected at a very early stage, ovarian cancers can usually be removed surgically and this can be potentially curative. But much needs to be done to encourage women to talk more openly about their gynecological worries,” added Dr. Moza Al Kalbani - Gynaecological Oncologist at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.During the awareness campaign, patients, healthcare professionals and the general public were exposed to key information around the causes of ovarian cancer. Although it is not clear what the cause of the disease is, certain factors are implicated in the etiology of ovarian cancer. Factors that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer include older age and family history of breast, or ovarian cancers or family history of other cancers, both in men and women. The disease can occur at any age, but is most common in women aged 50 to 60 years.Moreover, a small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by gene mutations inherited from parents. The genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes also increase the risk of breast cancer. The lifetime ovarian cancer risk for women with a BRCA1 mutation is estimated to be up to 45%, and between 10 and 30% for women with BRCA2 mutations, compared to less than 2% for general population.  Other risk factors include estrogen hormone replacement therapy and age when menstruation started and ended.Dr. Ikram Burney Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital added, “It is imperative that women report to the doctor when they experience pain in the lower abdomen, not responding to usual medications, backache of uncertain origin, abnormal vaginal bleeding, indigestion or heartburn, feeling of fullness soon after eating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal distention, shortness of breath, urge to pass urine more frequently, and change in bowel habits, amongst other symptoms.”Diagnosis is key to achieving early detection. Physical examinations including vaginal examination, and a few tests including blood tests, tumor markers, ultrasound of the lower abdomen, CT scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, and a MRI of the pelvis are used to diagnose ovarian cancer. A definitive diagnosis comes from biopsy and this is always required to plan definitive treatment.Moreover, Osama Lashine, AstraZeneca’s General Manager for the Gulf commented, “Early stages of ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms, which is why awareness and public education play an important role in the detection of the disease. AstraZeneca has a deep-rooted heritage in oncology and offers a quickly-growing portfolio of new medicines that have the potential to transform patients’ lives.“Addressing incidences of cancer is of utmost priority for AstraZeneca in the Sultanate of Oman – one which is in line with the Ministry of Health’s objectives. We are committed to support patients in Oman, and at the same time, seek to improve patient outcomes starting from diagnostics to treatment and follow up,” added Lashine.AstraZeneca takes seriously its commitment to helping improve the quality of cancer care in the Sultanate and across the region by strengthening infrastructures and helping those in need to gain access to the medicines they need.