ovarian cancer refers to the excessive growth of cells that occurs in the ovaries. these cells can multiply rapidly as well as invade and destroy other nearby healthy tissues.
the ovaries refer to the female reproductive system that helps to produce eggs and hormones. there are two ovaries present on each side of the uterus. each of the ovaries is the size of an almond.
ovarian cancer is not very common. however, it reports the maximum number of deaths as compared to other female reproductive cancers. detecting ovarian cancer at an early stage offers a better chance of recovery. unfortunately, it is difficult to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage.
symptoms of ovarian cancer
during the early stages of ovarian cancer, there may not be any signs of symptoms visible. however, at a later stage some signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
abdominal swelling or bleeding
immediately feeling full after eating
sudden weight loss
discomfort in the pelvic region
frequent urge to urinate
changes in bowel habits that can even include constipation
you must immediately make an appointment with your doctor if you feel you have any symptoms or signs that worry you.
causes of ovarian cancer
it is not clear what causes ovarian cancer, however, doctors are able to identify certain things that could increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
ovarian cancer generally begins when mutations occur in or near the cells of the ovaries. these mutations can invade and destroy nearby tissues. the mutations can even spread to other parts of the body causing different kinds of cancer to occur.
types of ovarian cancer
ovarian cancer depends on the type of cell where cancer begins. depending on the stage and size of the cancer, a few types of ovarian cancer can include:
epithelial ovarian cancer
this is the most common type of ovarian cancer that occurs in women. this cancer generally begins on the surface layer that covers the ovaries. there are many subtypes of epithelial ovarian cancer such as carcinoma and mucinous carcinoma.
stromal ovarian cancer is one of the rare forms of cancer. this type of cancer is generally diagnosed at an earlier stage as compared to other ovarian cancers. stromal tumours develop in the structural connective tissue cells of the ovaries. this is where females produce hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
germ cell tumours
this is another type of rare cancer that generally occurs at a young age. germ cell ovarian cancer tumours are formed in the egg cells of the ovaries.
risk factors of ovarian cancer
some of the factors that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer include:
the risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer increased with age. ovarian cancer is more likely to develop in older women as compared to younger women.
there is a small percentage of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer based on the inheritance of gene changes from the parent. some genes that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer include brca1 and brca2. these genes even increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
some other inherited gene changes that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer can include changes associated with rad51d, rad51c, and brip1.
having a family history of ovarian cancer can increase the risk of being diagnosed with it. if any blood relatives were ever diagnosed with ovarian cancer, there is a high risk for you to develop ovarian cancer as well.
being overweight or obese can even increase the risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
those who take hormone replacement therapy to control menopause symptoms and signs can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
endometriosis is a type of painful disorder that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer. this disorder includes tissues being developed outside the uterus, similar to the tissues that are available inside the uterus.
if the menstruation period began at an early age then there is a high risk of ovarian cancer. similarly, if menopause begins at a later age there is a high risk of developing ovarian cancer.
those women who have never been pregnant have a higher risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
diagnosis of ovarian cancer
for the accurate diagnosis of ovarian cancer, doctors can use the following tests and procedures:
the doctor will look inside the vagina and will try to feel (palpate) the pelvic organs. the doctor will even visually examine the vagina, genitalia, and cervix.
tests like ct scans or ultrasounds can be used to look at the abdomen and pelvis to determine the size, structure, and shape of the ovaries.
a blood test can help understand the functions of the organ as well as provide an overview of your overall health. blood tests can even help to check for any signs of a tumour for ovarian cancer.
sometimes when a doctor is unable to diagnose whether or not you have ovarian cancer, the doctor may remove an ovary and examine it for any signs of cancer.
genetic testing involves taking blood samples to look for gene changes that can diagnose signs of ovarian cancer.
treatment for ovarian cancer
the treatment for ovarian cancer generally involves a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. hence, the treatment options for ovarian cancer can include:
there are different kinds of surgery that are done to treat ovarian cancer. these can include:
surgery to remove one ovary
for those who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer at an early stage and have the tumour in only one ovary, in this case, surgery to remove that particular ovary and the fallopian tube connected to it will be conducted.
surgery to remove both ovaries
if the cancer is present in both the ovaries and hasn't spread to other parts of the body, then the doctor will remove both the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
surgery to remove both ovaries and uterus
when cancer reaches an advanced stage, or if you wish not to get pregnant, the doctor will remove both the ovaries, fallopian tubes, as well as the uterus, nearby lymph nodes, and the omentum (the fold of fatty abdominal tissue)
surgery for advanced cancer
if the cancer is advanced then the doctor can suggest removing as much of it as possible.
chemotherapy refers to a drug treatment that helps to kill all types of fast-growing cells, including cancer cells. these drugs can either be injected or taken orally.
this process includes focusing on a specific weakness present in cancer cells. by attacking these weaknesses, this therapy kills cancer cells.
some other options for treating ovarian cancer can include:
supportive (palliative care)
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