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?
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?
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?
- ● 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?
- ● 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?
- ● 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.
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?
- ● 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.