Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is considered as seventh most common cancer among the women worldwide. It is estimated that about 239,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2012. Ovarian cancer begins in your ovaries located on each side of the uterus. The ovaries produce the ova and hormones of female reproductive system such as estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian cancer is a condition where the cells grow abnormally in the ovaries. It can also spread to other body parts if the condition gets severe. Ovarian cancer is one of the most common causes of death in women. But, if the disease is diagnosed in the early stages, the treatment works best.

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. Usually, it is believed that any type of cancer may occur as a result of genetic mutations in the cells. The cancer cells multiply rapidly and form a mass called a tumor. They can also invade the nearby tissues and may spread to other organs of the body. The different types of ovarian cancer include the following:

  • Epithelial tumors occur when the abnormal cells form in the outer layer that lines your ovaries.
  • Stromal tumors occur in the cells that produce hormones.
  • Germ cell tumors occur when cancer begins in the egg-producing cells.

The patients with early ovarian cancer usually do not report any symptoms. However, they may have pain in the abdomen or side, and bloating. In severe stages, the patients experience symptoms such as:

  • Severe abdominal pain and back pain
  • Difficulty eating
  • Increased urination and an urge to urinate
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion and Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Painful intercourse

Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms and if the symptoms do not go away.

The factors that increase your risk of ovarian cancer are listed below:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Genetic mutations of genes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • Medical history of breast, uterine, or colon cancer
  • Being obese
  • Use of fertility drugs or hormone therapies
  • No history of pregnancy
  • History of endometriosis
  • Older age

Your doctor begins the diagnosis with a pelvic examination that includes inspecting the outer parts of your genitals and detecting the abnormalities by using a speculum that is inserted into your vagina. Your doctor might order the following tests to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Imaging tests: Computerized tomography scan and ultrasound provides detailed images of your ovaries and helps to identify any abnormalities.
  • Blood tests: Your doctor might order a blood test to detect the presence of protein (CA 125) which is present on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.
  • Biopsy: A small piece of ovarian tissue is removed and examined under the microscope. The test helps to identify the presence of cancer cells.

Your doctor determines the stage of your cancer which is crucial for planning the treatment strategies. The stages of ovarian cancer include:

StagesDescription
Stage I Cancer is confined to one or both the ovaries
Stage II Cancer has spread to other organs of the pelvis
Stage III Cancer has spread to the abdomen
Stage IV Cancer has spread to other organs outside the abdomen

The ovarian cancer treatment depends on the extent or severity of the condition. Your doctor might recommend any or combination of the following therapies.

Surgery: Surgical removal of affected ovaries is the first line of choice to treat ovarian cancer. Chemotherapy often follows the surgery. Your doctor may remove ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus and the nearby lymph nodes. The surgery is limited to only the affected parts if the condition is diagnosed in the early stages.

Chemotherapy: Surgery is followed by chemotherapy. The chemotherapy uses the chemical to kill the cancer cells in the ovary. The chemotherapeutic drugs are injected into a vein or directly into the abdominal cavity. In an advanced stage of cancer, chemotherapy is considered as the first-line drug treatment.

You may feel very difficult coping with the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Initially, you are likely to get upset and confused. The following strategies may help you to deal with ovarian cancer:

  • Get thorough and complete information about your cancer.
  • Discuss your feelings with your friend and family members.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and perform mild physical activity.