Ovarian Cancer: What Everyone Needs to Know!!!
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women. It causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive organ cancer.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer, a cancerous growth that can happen in various parts of the ovary, develops when cells mutate and grow abnormally. These abnormal cells then rapidly multiply and form a tumor, which can spread to the rest of the reproductive organs.
It’s not clear exactly what causes ovarian cancer. However, the following risk factors are linked to a higher chance of developing the disease:
Infertility treatment – Fertility drugs may increase the risk of ovarian tumors. You’re also at an increased risk if you started having periods before age 12, or if you are menopausal.
Family history – Your chance of developing ovarian cancer is higher if you have a family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer. The risk is greater if you have a mother, sister, or daughter who has had ovarian cancer.
Obesity – A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher increases the risk of getting ovarian cancer.
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) – Menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy, particularly estrogen alone, may be at higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Age – The risk of getting ovarian cancer, in addition to other types of cancer, increases with age.
Environmental – There are certain environmental causes of ovarian cancer which may be well or less-well understood. One of note is talcum powder. Strangely, although it is recognized that acquired genetic mutations may result in ovarian cancer; no single chemical has been specifically linked to ovarian cancer. Talcum powder is a notable exception in this respect because, although not a chemical, it has been linked to ovarian cancer.
In the early stages, ovarian cancer usually has vague symptoms which are not easy to recognize, and women often attribute their symptoms to other conditions, such as pre-menstrual syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or a bladder problem. However, while most digestive disorders have fluctuating symptoms, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are more constant and steadily get worse.
The following are examples of possible early symptoms of ovarian cancer: pain in the abdomen/pelvis/back, indigestion/heartburn, feeling full rapidly when eating, more frequent/urgent urination, changes in bowel habits, such as constipation and/or diarrhea, or unexplained vaginal bleeding.
As ovarian cancer progresses symptoms worsen, and may include: nausea, weight loss/loss of appetite, breathlessness, and fatigue.
The general practitioner will complete a vaginal examination and check for any abnormalities in the uterus or ovaries. Additional tests will be ordered and performed by a gynecologist. If a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the doctor will want to identify its stage (the cancer’s spread) and grade (how aggressively it’s spreading).
In addition to a physical exam, the following tests may used to diagnose and confirm ovarian cancer: pelvic examination, colonoscopy, chest x-ray, blood test, transvaginal ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, biopsy, or lower Gastrointestinal (GI) series.
After the diagnostic tests are done, your healthcare team will recommend 1 or more treatment options, depending on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. The main treatments for ovarian cancer are:
Surgery – Surgery is used to treat all stages of ovarian cancer. For early stages, surgery may be the only treatment. Surgery may involve removing both ovaries and fallopian tubes, the uterus, or other structures in the belly or pelvis.
Chemotherapy – used after surgery to treat any cancer that remains. Chemotherapy can also be used if the cancer comes back (relapses). Chemotherapy can be given intravenously (through an IV). Or it can be injected directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal, or IP).
Radiation therapy – rarely used to treat ovarian cancer in the United States.
Other factors that could be used in choosing the best treatment plan might include your general health and wellness, whether you plan to have children, and other personal considerations. Be sure you understand all the risks and side effects of the various treatments before making a final decision.