Ovarian cancer is the cancer of the ovaries. Ovaries are the pair of organs in the female reproductive system, located below the abdomen and connected to the womb. The ovaries store the eggs. They consist of three kinds of cells: epithelial, germ, and stromal. Abnormal cell growth in ovaries, develops into tumors that can be cancerous or non-cancerous. C cancerous cells may spread from the ovaries to the pelvic region and continue on to other organs. Developing a treatment plan for ovarian cancer is critical.
At stage one, the cancer is limited to either one or both cancerous tumors that should be detected early in ovaries. In stage two, ovarian cancer could extend to the pelvis area. When stage 3 has been reached ovarian cancer has spread to the abdominal region and in stage four ovarian cancer extends to the liver.
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Types of Ovarian Cancer
There are over 30 types of only ovarian cancers!. Below are a few of them.
- Epithelial Ovarian Cancer: This kind of cancer arises from the surface of the ovary (known as the epithelium). Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type of ovarian cancer. This kind of cancer is common in women who have undergone menopause. Most epithelial tumors are benign. When the tumors get cancerous, though, they are called ovarian carcinomas. Ovarian cancers spread through the lining and organs of the pelvis first, before spreading to the liver or lungs. Primary peritoneal carcinoma and fallopian tube cancer both resemble epithelial ovarian cancer — although they are rare. As a result, they are also treated with the same approach. Primary peritoneal carcinoma develops in the pelvis or abdomen. Fallopian tube cancer starts and usually grows within the fallopian tubes.
- Germ Cell Cancers: These tumors begin in the reproductive cells, which means in the eggs for women and sperm cells for men. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), germ cell tumors are found in less than 2% of ovarian cancer cases and have a high survival rate. Teenagers and women in their 20’s usually develop this kind of cancer. If these tumors affect only one ovary, it is easier to detect and remove.
- Stromal Cell Cancers: Stromal cell ovarian tumors are less common than germ cell ovarian tumors. According to ACS, they represent only 1% of all ovarian cancers. These cancers develop in the hormone-producing stroma cells. Stromal ovarian cancers form in the tissues that support the ovaries.
- Ovarian Sarcoma: Ovarian sarcomas develop in the connective tissues of the ovarian cells. This kind of cancer is not studied well and tends to have a poor prognosis.
- Krukenberg Tumors: These are considered to be a stage 4 symptom in advanced cancer, the reason being they break away from the original tumor and quickly start multiplying in the body. These tumors may be present in the colon, stomach, or ovaries.
- Ovarian Cysts: Ovarian cysts develop inside the ovary. They are fluid-filled sacs that often go away without any treatment. Even if they are there, they are rarely cancerous.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is difficult to observe during the early stages as it might be similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- A swollen abdomen
- Feeling constantly bloated and discomfort in the abdomen
- Feeling full quickly or loss of appetite
- Need to urinate more frequently than usual
- Persistent indigestion
- Pain during sex
- Unintentional weight loss
- Feeling tired all the time
- Back pain
Causes of Ovarian Cancer
It is unclear why this cancer happens, but certain factors may increase the risk of getting ovarian cancer. Here are some:
- Age becomes a major risk factor as most ovarian cases happen after menopause as you get older.
- People with a family history of ovarian cancer are more at risk of getting it, particularly if a close relative had it.
- Research has shown that women who have endometriosis are more likely to develop ovarian cancer. In endometriosis, the cells which are present in the lining of the womb grow into other parts of the body, like the ovaries or abdomen. The cells have the same properties and exhibit bleeding just like in periods. Since the blood doesn’t get far out of the body, it gets trapped and causes pain in the affected area.
- Being overweight, smoking, and exposure to chemicals like talcum powder or asbestos also increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer
If you see symptoms of ovarian cancer, consult with your physician immediately. They might do some initial tests. The healthcare provider may enquire about your family history and ask for blood tests to be done.
The doctor may recommend the patient go directly to the gynecologist for further tests in some cases. Blood tests are done to check the presence of CA125. High levels of CA125 could be a sign of ovarian cancer.
An ultrasound scan can reveal changes in the ovaries because of cancer. If any abnormalities are found, then the patient is referred to specialists.
Further diagnosis is done by doing procedures like a CT Scan, X-ray, biopsy, or laparoscopy. Once these procedures are done, they will help to determine how far cancer has spread. If cancer is found, then it will be given a stage.
Treatment for Ovarian Cancer
The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on your general health, which stages cancer has reached, and whether one can still have children. Treatment of ovarian cancer aims to place the patient into complete remission. Sometimes, it is not possible due to delayed detection. Then, the treatment should be able to relieve symptoms and control the spread of cancer. For most people, a combination of surgery and chemotherapy is prescribed.
- Is ovarian cancer related to fibroids or ovarian cysts? No, fibroids are unrelated to ovarian cancer and most ovarian cysts do not develop into cancer.
- Can one feel an ovarian lump with cancer? No, this lump cannot be detected by yourself. During a screening, the doctor will be able to detect it through internal examination.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!