Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries where eggs are produced. It is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in women and the tenth most common cancer among women in the world.
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and stomach. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and can be fatal. Hence referred to as The Silent Killer.
Types of ovarian cancer
The type of cell where the cancer begins determines the type of ovarian cancer you have. Ovarian cancer types include:
- Epithelial tumors,which begin in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors.
- Stromal tumors,which begin in the ovarian tissue that contains hormone-producing cells. These tumors are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage than other ovarian tumors. About 7 percent of ovarian tumors are stromal.
- Germ cell tumors,which begin in the egg-producing cells. These rare ovarian cancers tend to occur in younger women.
Risk factors: Cause is Unknown.
Factors that can increase your risk of ovarian cancer include:
- Older age.Ovarian cancer can occur at any age but is most common in women ages 50 to 60 years.
- Inherited gene mutations.A small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by gene mutations you inherit from your parents. The genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes also increase the risk of breast cancer.
Other gene mutations, including those associated with Lynch syndrome, are known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Family history of ovarian cancer.People with two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease.
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy,especially with long-term use and in large doses.
- Age when menstruation started and ended.Beginning menstruation at an early age or starting menopause at a later age, or both, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
There’s no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer. But there may be ways to reduce your risk:
- Consider taking birth control pills.Women who use oral contraceptives may have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer. But oral contraceptives do have risks, so discuss you’re your doctor whether the benefits outweigh those risks based on your situation.
- Discuss your risk factors with your doctor.If you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancers, bring this up with your doctor. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor who can help you decide whether genetic testing may be right for you and what to do if a gene mutation is found.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause few and nonspecific symptoms that are often mistaken for more common benign conditions
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Quickly feeling full when eating
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvis area and changes in bowel habits
- A frequent need to urinate
- Pain in the pelvis, the lower abdomen, or the lower part of the body
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Breathlessness, tiredness and loss of appetite.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic exam.During a pelvic exam, your doctor inserts gloved fingers into your vagina and simultaneously presses a hand on your abdomen in order to feel (palpate) your pelvic organs. The doctor also visually examines your external genitalia, vagina and cervix.
- Imaging tests.Tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans of your abdomen and pelvis, may help determine the size, shape and structure of your ovaries.
- Blood tests.Blood tests might include organ function tests that can help determine your overall health and a cancer antigen test CA 125 which detects a protein often found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.
These tests can’t tell your doctor whether you have cancer, but may give clues about your diagnosis and prognosis.
- Surgery (Laparoscopy);Sometimes your doctor can’t be certain of your diagnosis until you undergo surgery to remove an ovary and have it tested for signs of cancer.
The stages of ovarian cancer are indicated using Roman numerals ranging from I to IV, with the lowest stage indicating that the cancer is confined to the ovaries. By stage IV, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.
Treatment for ovarian cancer may consist of;
- SURGERY: In most cases, surgery is done to remove the cancer. It is often the first option. The extent of the surgery depends on the stage of the cancer.
- HORMONE THERAPY: Hormone therapy may include goserelin (Zolodex), leuprolide (Lupron), Tamoxifen, or an aromtase inhibitor.
- RADIATION THERAPY
When to see a doctor Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you or a family history.