Ovarian cancer linked to graves disease

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Ovarian cancer occurs in one in 57 women. Graves' disease affects 13 million people. Some studies suggest there is a correlation between the two diseases.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer was known as a "silent killer" for many years because it typically was not diagnosed until in the later stages and had spread to other parts of the body. Awareness of symptoms has led to earlier detection and a better survival rate. Symptoms can often mimic other conditions and include abdominal pressure, pelvic discomfort, urinary urgency, unexplained changes in bowel habits, quickly feeling full, lack of energy and lower back pain.

What is Graves' Disease?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Graves' Disease is a form of hyperthyroidism, "occurring when your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland and causes it to overproduce the hormone thyroxine." It occurs more often in women who are older than 20 and is rarely life threatening. Symptoms include sensitivity to heat, brittle hair, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, enlargement of the thyroid gland and a fine tremor in your hand.

The link between the two

The ovaries and the thyroid are linked through an intricate hormonal axis (the adrenals are also included). This axis is called the ovarian adrenal thyroid axis. What happens to one organ will affect the other organs physiologically, clinically or sub-clinically. The March 2000 issue of the medical journal "Epidemiology" indicates that a woman with hyperthyroidism has an 80 per cent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. A thyroid problem may cause certain conditions in which the ovaries become inflamed. This increases the chance for cancerous cells to grow.

Other Risk Factors

Increasing age is also a risk factor for ovarian cancer, as is a family history of breast, ovarian or colour cancer. Risks for Graves' disease also includes a family history. In addition, women are more likely to develop the condition. Stress, pregnancy and smoking are also risk factors.


Graves' disease is treated with drugs called beta blockers (to help relieve symptoms) and anti-thyroid medications to prevent your thyroid from producing excessive amounts of hormones. Some patients may undergo radioactive iodine treatment or surgery to treat the disease. Treatment of ovarian cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer and each individual patient. Options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.