Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, and eventually form a growth(tumor). It is a concerning fact that ovarian cancer mostly stays undetected, until it ends up spreading in the pelvis and the whole body. When at a late stage, ovarian cancer becomes more difficult to treat and can prove fatal.
Ovarian cancer rates fifth in cancer death among women. However, it is the leading cause for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. The reason being absence of any screening tools or tests that are proven to detect ovarian cancer, before it gets more advanced.
Ovarian cancer generally does not have symptoms in the early stages. It shows very little and vague symptoms after its onset, like bloating, losing weight, nausea, loss of appetite, discomfort in the pelvic area and frequency of urination.
One way of screening for ovarian cancer is through routine pelvic ultrasound on a yearly basis. This, however, does not mean that an early ovarian cancer could be detected, and unfortunately is not proven to be effective in more aggressive types of ovarian cancer. Although, it could detect the less invasive types of this disease.
They generate in the thin tissue layer covering the outside of the ovaries. Roughly 90% of ovarian cancers are known to be epithelial.
They start in the ovarian tissue containing hormone-producing cells. These tumors are generally detected at an earlier stage, than other ovarian tumors. As per data available, roughly 7% ovarian tumors can be stromal.
They begin in the egg-producing cells, and are rare ovarian cancers, which are also inclined to be seen in younger women.
Prevention of ovarian cancer can be summarized by the concept of inhibiting ovarian function and mainly ovulation. This is mainly achieved by using hormonal contraceptives that cause lack of ovulation, while putting the ovaries into a passive state. Breastfeeding and giving birth are also known to achieve the same purpose of not having a menstrual cycle and hence, having the ovaries in the inactive state described above.
For women who might be at higher risk for ovarian cancer, who may have breast cancer in close family, BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes positive, mother or sister having ovarian cancer, removing the ovaries can be an option to prevent ovarian cancer in future life of this category of women.
In case of a medical indication to remove the uterus, like fibroids, bleeding, cervical disease, it is recommended to remove the fallopian tubes together with the uterus, while keeping the ovaries for hormonal function maintenance. This is considered scientifically to decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer in the left behind ovaries, after removing the uterus.
You can consult your OBGYN for further information on oral contraceptive use as a prophylaxis for ovarian cancer. A consultation is required, as this method also has its side-effects and risk factors in certain women.
Your treatment depends on several factors. These include what type of ovarian cancer you have, how big it is and whether it has spread (the stage), what the cancer cells look like under the microscope (grade) and your general health.
Treatment options include: Surgery, Chemotherapy, and Targeted cancer drugs.
The type of operation you need to have depends on where the cancer has spread to.
Most women have surgery to remove their womb, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. During the operation, the surgeon examines the inside of your abdomen and your abdominal organs for signs of cancer.
The surgeon aims to remove as much of the cancer as possible if it has spread to other areas in your pelvis or abdomen. This is called debulking.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. You might have it as part of your treatment for ovarian cancer.
Targeted cancer drugs change the way that cells work and help the body control the growth of cancer.