Ovarian cancer is a cancer that forms in the ovary, which is a part of the reproductory system in women. The cancer creates abnormal cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
According to leading medical experts, there may be no or only vague symptoms as thr cancer begins but become more noticeable as the disease progresses.
Key symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Back pain
- Irregular menstruation or postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
- Pain or bleeding after or during sexual intercourse
- Early satiety
- Possibly urinary symptoms (including frequent urination and urgent urination)
Ovarian cancer may spread to the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum), lining of the bowel and bladder, lymph nodes, lungs, and liver.
Since ovarian cancer symptoms are practially absent in early stages, doctors warn that they may initially be misdiagnosed as a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome. The early stages of ovarian cancer tend to be painless unless the growing mass causes ovarian torsion (the rotation of the ovary at its pedicle to such a degree as to occlude the ovarian artery and/or vein).
Adolescents or children with ovarian tumors could experience severe abdominal pain, irritation of the peritoneum, or bleeding.
Common risk factors
- The amount of time spent in ovulation. Thus not having children is a risk factor for ovarian cancer, likely because ovulation is not suppressed via pregnancy.
- Hormone replacement therapy
- A positive family history of ovarian cancer
- People with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (Lynch Syndrome), and those with BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genetic abnormalities
Hence, things that halt ovulation: breast feeding, oral contraceptive use with estrogen/progesterone combination meds, multiple pregnancies, and pregnancy at an early age, all decrease risk of ovarian cancer.
Screening and treatment
Screening is not recommended in women who are at average risk of ovarian cancer. Those at very high risk may have their ovaries removed as a preventive measure.
If caught and treated in an early stage, ovarian cancer may be curable. Treatment usually includes some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Outcomes depend on the extent of the disease and the subtype of the cancer present. The overall five-year survival rate in the United States is 45%. Outcomes are worse in the developing world.
Did you know?
>> Over 239,000 women suffered from ovarian cancer in 2012 and it caused 152,000 deaths worldwide.
<< Ovarian cancer is the seventh-most common cancer among women and the eight-most common cause of cancer death.
>> Death from ovarian cancer is more common in North America and Europe than in Africa and Asia.
>> Industrialized nations, with the exception of Japan, have high rates of epithelial ovarian cancer, which may be due to diet in those countries.