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Ovarian Cancer

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Introduction

Ovarian cancer is one of the most commonly seen types of cancer that affects many women worldwide. Earlier, ovarian cancer was believed to affect only the ovaries. However, recent studies have shown that many ovarian cancer cases may begin to develop in the distal end of fallopian tubes.

The treatment for ovarian cancer may vary depending on its severity and causes.

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What is Ovarian Cancer?

The female reproductive system consists of two ovaries attached to two fallopian tubes, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is approximately the size of an almond. The ovaries are responsible for releasing eggs every month and producing female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.

Cancer develops in the ovaries when the ovarian cells start to grow abnormally and form a tumour. If not treated on time, the abnormal cells can spread to other parts of the body as well.

In most cases, early signs and symptoms of Ovarian cancer are vague. Only about twenty percent of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the early stages.

What are the Causes of Ovarian Cancer?

The exact causes of Ovarian cancer are unknown yet; doctors have identified the risk factors that may increase your chances of developing Ovarian cancer.

Usually, cancer begins when the cells develop mutations or errors in their DNA. These mutations command the cells to grow and multiply rapidly, which creates a mass of abnormal cells, called the tumour. Healthy cells die after some time, whereas abnormal cells keep on living. These abnormal cells can invade and spread to other parts of the body, causing cancer to spread.

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

In most cases, early-stage Ovarian Cancer does not cause any signs or symptoms. However, advanced cases of ovarian cancer may cause a few symptoms, such as:

  • ● Difficulty eating
  • ● Abdominal bleeding
  • ● Frequent urge to urinate
  • ● Changes in bowel habits such as constipation
  • ● Weight loss
  • ● Discomfort in the pelvis region
  • ● Abnormal fullness after eating
  • ● Back pain
  • ● Heartburn
  • ● Painful intercourse
  • ● Irregular menstruation

Sometimes, these symptoms are mistaken for other benign medical conditions and are often ignored. If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately consult with a doctor. An early diagnosis of the condition and proper treatment can help to avoid future complications.

How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

To diagnose your ovarian cancer, the doctor may perform some tests and examinations; they are:

  • Pelvic Exam: To do a pelvic exam, the doctor may insert gloved fingers inside your vagina and palpate your pelvic organs by keeping the other hand on your abdomen at the same time. He/She may also visually check your external genitalia and cervix for any signs of abnormalities.
  • Blood Test: The doctor may do a blood test that includes an organ function test to help determine your overall health.

A blood test can be done as well to look for tumour markers that indicate ovarian cancer. For example, a cancer antigen 125 test may help detect a protein found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.

  • Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound of the abdomen or pelvis can help determine abnormalities in your ovaries’ shape, structure, and size.
  • Biopsy: The doctor may take out a small sample of tissue from your ovaries and examine it under a microscope.

How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?

In most cases, the treatment option for Ovarian cancer is a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.

  • Chemotherapy: A type of drug treatment, chemotherapy kills rapidly growing cancer cells in the body using chemicals. These drugs can either be injected into the arm or taken orally. In some cases, the drug may be injected into the abdomen, known as intraperitoneal chemotherapy.

More often, chemotherapy is used after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells, if any. However, it can be used before surgery as well.

  • Surgery: The goal of surgery is to remove the cancer cells; however, a hysterectomy is performed in most cases. Depending on the severity of your ovarian cancer, the doctor may surgically remove both ovaries, fallopian tubes, nearby lymph nodes, and some pelvic tissues as well.

Result

The outlook depends on certain factors such as your overall health, the severity of ovarian cancer, and how well you respond to the treatment. Every case of ovarian cancer is different, but the severity of cancer plays a vital role in deciding the result of the treatment.

What are the Risks Associated with Ovarian Cancer treatments?

There are a few risks associated with Ovarian cancer surgery, such as :

  • ● Excessive bleeding
  • ● Damage to nearby organs such as ureters or bladder
  • ● Certain infections

If the surgeon removes a section of your colon during the surgery, you may have to wear a colostomy bag on your stomach to collect the stool. However, it is temporary in most cases.

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FAQ's

Does Ovarian Cancer Spread Quickly?

Yes, Ovarian Cancer does spread quickly. Studies have shown that cancer can progress from early stages to advance in about one year. A common type, malignant epithelial carcinoma, spreads quickly within weeks or months.

Can One be Fully Cured of Ovarian Cancer?

The recovery rates of early-stage Ovarian Cancer are better compared to severe cases. If you have advanced ovarian cancer, you may require chemotherapy on and off for several years.

Where is Ovarian Cancer Pain Located?

Pain is one of the most common signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. You can experience pain in your abdomen, back, or side of the body.

Which is the First Place Ovarian Cancer Spreads To?

Metastatic Ovarian Cancer is an advanced stage malignancy that spreads to other parts of the body. It is most likely to spread to the intestine, liver, lymph nodes outside of the abdomen, spleen, and the fluid surrounding the lungs.

Can Stage I Ovarian Cancer be Fully Cured?

Generally, an early diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer results in a better outlook. When diagnosed and treated in the early stages, the five-year survival rate is 92 per cent. However, only about twenty per cent of Ovarian Cancer cases are diagnosed in the early stages.

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