Ovaries are reproductive glands that are found in the female reproductive system. Cancer usually starts when the body cells start growing out of control. Ovarian cancer can be defined as any cancerous growth that occurs in one or both the ovaries. Cells in any part of the body can become cancerous and spread to different areas of the body. If they spread to the ovaries it cannot be described as ovarian cancer since it did not start at the ovaries. Statistics show that ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer related deaths. It is also estimated that one in every seventy-five women develop ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer causes
Ovarian cancer just like any other cancer is caused by body cells multiplying and growing in a non-regulated way, nevertheless the exact cause of cancer remains unknown. Even though the cause of ovarian cancer is unknown there are some risk factors that have been linked to a higher likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.
The risk factors include:
• Family history – women who have close relatives who have had breast or ovarian cancer are at a much larger risk of developing ovarian cancer when compared to other women. You can go for genetic screening to help you determine if you carry certain genes that are often associated with increased risk.
• Age – according to statistics women over 65 are at a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer
• Breast cancer – women who have been diagnosed previously with breast cancer are at a higher chance of developing ovarian cancer
• Endometriosis – research shows that women with endometriosis are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer signs and symptoms
In most cases women with ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until they have reached a more advanced stage. This because the early symptoms of usually mimic common stomach and digestive issues, and they can easily be dismissed as minor ailments. Most women will start experiencing the symptoms when the disease has spread beyond the ovaries.
These symptoms include:
• Abdominal bloating, pain and pressure
• Abnormal fullness after a meal
• More frequent and urgent need to urinate.
• Back pain
• Pain during intercourse
• Abdominal swelling accompanied by weight loss
If a woman experiences any of the above symptoms and they get more persistent and severe they should visit a gynecologist. Then symptoms become more severe with time as the tumor continues to grow.
Ovarian cancer treatment
There are different treatments of ovarian cancer. Treatment consists of chemotherapy, surgery, both surgery and chemotherapy combined and even radiotherapy. The treatment usually depends on several factors that include the stage, grade and the type of ovarian cancer. The general health of the patient is also a key factor.
• Surgery – This involves the surgical removal of the cancerous cells. It is often the first treatment that most patients undergo. Unless the patient’s ovarian cancer is low grade, they will often require an extensive surgery that involves the removal of both the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, uterus and the nearby lymph nodes. However, if the cancerous cells are confined in one of the ovaries, the surgeon might remove the affected ovary and the adjoining fallopian tube.
• Chemotherapy – This refers to the use of chemicals to destroy the cancerous cells. The chemicals usually prevents the cancerous cells from growing and dividing. The treatments consists of 3 to 6 chemotherapy sessions. After the sessions, if the cells continue growing, chemotherapy is normally given again to shrink the cells.
• Radiotherapy – this is the least common ovarian cancer treatment. It is normally used when small traces of cancerous cells are found in the reproductive system.
When one is diagnosed with ovarian cancer while in the early stages, the 5 year relative survival rate is 45%. It is therefore crucial that women visit a gynecologist of they experience the symptoms above.