Ovaries are small glands on each side of the uterus responsible for producing eggs as well as the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. In ovarian cancer, a mutation in the genetic material of ovarian cells leads to uncontrolled, abnormal cell growth.
Warning signs of ovarian cancer may include:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Feeling full quickly after a meal
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency
- Lower back pain
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual periods, such as heavier or irregular bleeding
- Weight loss
Since many of these symptoms may also be caused by noncancerous diseases, it is best to consult your doctor to confirm a diagnosis. Your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, sonography, blood test and, if required, a computed tomography (CT) scan to check for tumors in the ovaries.
What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- Genes: Certain genetic conditions:
- History of cancer: Particularly a history of breast cancer, uterine cancer, or colorectal cancer.
- Age: The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age.
- Tobacco and alcohol: Smoking has been linked to a particular type of ovarian cancer, with studies showing that women who smoke are three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer. It is unclear whether alcohol consumption increases ovarian cancer risk, as the evidence is inconclusive.
- Reproductive health: Women who start menstruating earlier (before 12 years of age), get menopause later (after 50 years of age), and/or undergo hormone replacement therapy.
- Late pregnancy: Women who gave birth to their first child after the age of 35 or those who have never carried a pregnancy to term.
- Fertility treatment: Fertility medications seem to increase the risk of a certain type of ovarian tumor.
- Talcum powder: Studies show that talcum powder applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins could potentially travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary and cause ovarian cancer.
- Obesity: Obesity alters the hormonal balance of the body and is linked to many answers.
- Co-existing health conditions: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Type II diabetes mellitus is also known to moderately increase ovarian cancer risk.
Of course, it’s important to remember that ovarian cancer may develop even in the absence of any risk factors. Similarly, the presence of one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that someone will definitely develop the condition.
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Can a Blood Test Detect Ovarian Cancer?A doctor may advise a blood test to patients having ovarian cancer. A cancer antigen-125 (CA-125) blood test is usually recommended to measure the levels of a protein called CA-125, which could be elevated in women who have ovarian cancer. This test is also used during the treatment of ovarian cancer because the level of this protein goes down as the tumor shrinks. This protein is elevated in more than 80 percent of women with advanced ovarian cancers and 50 percent of those with early-stage cancers.
Can You Be Fully Cured of Ovarian Cancer?Around two in ten women with advanced-stage ovarian cancer are effectively cured and survive at least 12 years after the treatment as per the research. Your response to cancer therapy and chances for a cure depend on the type and the staging of ovarian cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Can You See Ovarian Cancer on an Ultrasound?An ultrasound of the pelvis is usually the first test that is ordered to see if there is any problem with the ovaries or other pelvic organs. It can detect ovarian masses and help the doctor know if they are fluid-filled ovarian cysts or ovarian tumors. If the doctor suspects ovarian cancer, they may order additional tests.
Does Ovarian Cancer Show Up on Blood Work?A person with ovarian cancer may have high levels of a substance called the CA-125 (cancer or carcinoma antigen-125) in the blood. CA-125 antigen is known by several other names, such as ovarian cancer antigen and CA-125 tumor marker. It is a protein present on the surface of most (but not all) ovarian cells. Thus, significantly high levels of CA-125 may be seen in the blood of ovarian cancer patients.
How Long Do You Have to Live With Stage IV Ovarian Cancer?Stage IV cancer means the disease has already spread to distant organs. In most patients diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer, the 5-year survival rate is approximately 17%.
How Would I Know if I Have Ovarian Cancer?Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries that produce eggs. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, bloating, pelvic pain, constipation and an increased urge to urinate.
What Are the Stages of Ovarian Cancer?Ovarian cancer is a disease where abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a mass of undifferentiated tumor cells. These cells tend to invade nearby and distant sites in the body, deteriorating their function. The ovaries are pair of internal reproductive glands found only in females.
Is There a Blood Test for Ovarian Cancer?The CA-125 blood test is one of clinical assessments used to diagnose ovarian cancer. However, CA-125 or other tumor markers alone are insufficient to diagnose ovarian cancer.
Ovarian CancerThere are many types of ovarian cancer, epithelial carcinoma is the most common. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease. Some ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and abnormal vaginal bleeding, however, they usually do not present until the disease has progressed. Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment.
Ovarian Cancer SlidesOvarian cancer symptoms and signs include abdominal pain, bloating, frequent urination, and a feeling of fullness. Ovarian cancer treatment depends on the stage and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy.
Ovarian Cancer QuizHow common is ovarian cancer and who is at risk? Take our Ovarian Cancer Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this disease.
What Are the Main Causes of Ovarian Cancer?Each cell in the body survives, grows, and dies under regulated conditions. The term cancer means an uncontrolled growth of cells.
What Are the Symptoms of Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer?At stage 1 of ovarian cancer, the cancer is present only in the ovaries i.e. it has not spread in any other organs. Signs and symptoms at this stage may include a mass felt in the abdomen, distension or swelling of abdomen, abnormal vaginal bleeding (between menstrual periods or after menopause) and other signs. Stage 1 ovarian cancer has no symptoms in many women, however; often they may not experience symptoms until the cancer has spread significantly.
What Was Your First Sign of Ovarian Cancer?Like all types of cancer, ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic. The first signs of ovarian cancer may vary from patient to patient. Typically, ovarian cancer symptoms might appear as common stomach and digestive problems that are often mistaken for minor ailments.
Who Is at High Risk for Ovarian Cancer?The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age. Almost half of the ovarian cancer cases are seen in women older than 63 years of age. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecological cancer-related deaths among women between the ages of 35 and 74 years.