Ovarian cancer is a disease that affects women. In this form of cancer, certain cells in the ovary become abnormal and multiply uncontrollably to form a tumor. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs in which egg cells are produced. In about 90 percent of cases, ovarian cancer occurs after age 40, and most cases occur after age 60.
The most common form of ovarian cancer begins in epithelial cells, which are the cells that line the surfaces and cavities of the body. These cancers can arise in the epithelial cells on the surface of the ovary. However, researchers suggest that many or even most ovarian cancers begin in epithelial cells on the fringes (fimbriae) at the end of one of the fallopian tubes, and the cancerous cells migrate to the ovary.
Cancer can also begin in epithelial cells that form the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum). This form of cancer, called primary peritoneal cancer, resembles epithelial ovarian cancer in its origin, symptoms, progression, and treatment. Primary peritoneal cancer often spreads to the ovaries. It can also occur even if the ovaries have been removed. Because cancers that begin in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and peritoneum are so similar and spread easily from one of these structures to the others, they are often difficult to distinguish. These cancers are so closely related that they are generally considered collectively by experts.
In about 10 percent of cases, ovarian cancer develops not in epithelial cells but in germ cells, which are precursors to egg cells, or in hormone-producing ovarian cells called granulosa cells.
In its early stages, ovarian cancer usually does not cause noticeable symptoms. As cancer progresses, signs and symptoms can include pain or a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis or lower abdomen, bloating, feeling full quickly when eating, back pain, vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause, or changes in urinary or bowel habits. However, these changes can occur as part of many different conditions. Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean that a woman has ovarian cancer.
In some cases, cancerous tumors can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body. If ovarian cancer spreads, cancerous tumors most often appear in the abdominal cavity or on the surfaces of nearby organs such as the bladder or colon. Tumors that begin at one site and then spread to other areas of the body are called metastatic cancers.
Some ovarian cancers cluster in families. These cancers are described as hereditary and are associated with inherited gene mutations. Hereditary ovarian cancers tend to develop earlier in life than non-inherited (sporadic) cases.
Because it is often diagnosed at a late stage, ovarian cancer can be difficult to treat; it leads to the deaths of about 14,000 women annually in the United States, more than any other gynecological cancer. However, when it is diagnosed and treated early, the 5-year survival rate is high.
Commonly Associated With
- Cancer of the ovary
- Malignant neoplasm of the ovary
- Malignant tumor of the ovary
- Ovarian carcinoma
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women. It causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive organ cancer.
The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown.
Risks of developing ovarian cancer include any of the following:
• The fewer children a woman has and the later in life she gives birth, the higher her risk for ovarian cancer.
• Women who have had breast cancer or have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer have an increased risk for ovarian cancer (due to defects in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes).
• Women who take estrogen replacement only (not with progesterone) for 5 years or more may have a higher risk for ovarian cancer. Birth control pills, though, decrease the risk for ovarian cancer.
• Fertility medicine probably does not increase the risk for ovarian cancer.
• Older women are at highest risk of developing ovarian cancer. Most deaths from ovarian cancer occur in women age 55 and older.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be very vague, particularly when the disease is in its early stages.
See the doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms:
● feeling full quickly
● loss of appetite
● pain in the tummy (abdomen) or lower part of the abdomen that doesn’t go away
● bloating or an increase in the size of the abdomen
● needing to wee more often
Other possible symptoms
● Unexplained tiredness
● Unexplained weight loss
● changes in the bowel habit or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, especially if this starts after the age of 50
These are all symptoms of other less serious conditions but if you have them or anything else that is not normal for you get them checked out by the doctor
Choosing a type of treatment for ovarian cancer depends on many factors, such as the stage of the tumor. A specialist doctor will determine which type of treatment is most appropriate for each patient.
Treatment for ovarian cancer may include:
● Surgery: If the patient’s tumor is small and has not yet spread to other areas, the doctor will consider surgical treatment to remove the tumor and the surrounding tissue. The doctor may also remove the lymph glands from near the site of the tumor.
● Chemotherapy: This involves using medication to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy medicines can be administered in several different ways, including oral medication, subcutaneous injection, or IV (intravenous chemotherapy). However, one side effect of chemotherapy is that it may destroy healthy cells as well.
● Radiation Therapy: This involves using radiation to destroy cancer cells and reduce the size of the patient’s tumor. Radiation therapy may be given as either external radiation or internal radiation.
There are no specific ways to prevent ovarian cancer, as the exact cause of the condition is still unknown. Moreover, early-stage ovarian cancer usually has no symptoms, so the best way to prevent it from developing is to simply watch for any physical abnormalities. It’s important to go in for check-ups, internal screenings, and a pelvic ultrasound scan at least once per year to check for lumps in the pelvic cavity.