Ovarian cancer is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the ovaries or related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum.
Cancerous ovarian cyst or early-stage ovarian cancer (stages I to II) rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer (stages III to IV) may cause a few nonspecific symptoms.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can develop at any stage of the condition and may include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or cramping
- Feeling full quickly after starting to eat or lack of appetite
- Indigestion/upset stomach
- Passing urine more often or urgently than normal
- Unexplained exhaustion
- Bloating and/or constipation
- Excessive flatulence
- Increase abdominal girth or abdominal swelling
- Unexplained pain while having sex
- Menstrual changes (heavier than normal or irregular bleeding)
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
What causes ovarian cancer?
The specific cause of ovarian cancer is still unclear, though doctors have identified factors that can increase the risk of the disease, such as:
- Older age: It is most common in women who are 50 to 60 years, though it can occur at any age.
- Inherited gene mutations: A small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by genetic mutations inherited from the parents. The genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 and breast cancer gene 2. These genes also increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Other gene mutations: Other gene mutations that can cause ovarian cancer include those associated with Lynch syndrome (a hereditary disorder).
- Family history of ovarian cancer: People with two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease.
- Reproductive history: Women who have not had children, who have had assisted reproduction, or who have had children after the age of 35 years may be slightly more at risk.
- Lifestyle factors: Some types of ovarian cancer have been linked to smoking or being overweight.
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy: It can be a cause of ovarian cancer, especially with long-term use and in large doses.
- Age when menstruation started (menarche) and ended (menopause): Beginning menstruation at an early age or starting menopause at a later age, or both, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Endometriosis: A condition caused by tissue from the lining of the uterus growing outside the uterus.
- Nullipara women: The risk of ovarian cancer is higher in women who have never been pregnant.
3 types of ovarian cancer
- Epithelial: The most common type of ovarian cancer (90 percent of cases)
- Clear cell
- Stromal cell: A rare type (8 percent or less)
- Germ cell: A rare type of ovarian cancer (approximately 4 percent of cases)
How is ovarian cancer treated?
The treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
Other treatments may be used, such as:
- Unilateral or bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgical removal of one or both ovaries): Surgery may involve removing the affected ovary (either one or both) and the corresponding fallopian tube. It is usually done when cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.
- Total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgical removal of ovaries along with the uterus): In some cases, where cancer is more extensive or when the preservation of the ability to have children is not an issue, the surgeon will remove the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, nearby lymph nodes, and omentum (a fold of fatty abdominal tissue).
- Chemotherapy: A drug treatment that uses chemicals injected into a vein or taken by mouth to kill fast-growing cancerous cells in the body. In some instances, it can also be used before surgery.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted drug treatments work by focusing on specific weaknesses present within the cancer cells and can cause cancer cells to die.
- Hormonal therapy: This therapy uses drugs to block the effects of the hormone estrogen on ovarian cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: This therapy works by activating the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
- Radiation therapy: It is used to treat ovarian cancer that has spread to the pelvis or er parts of the body.
- Palliative care: A specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
What Should I Know About Screening? CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/screening.htm
Can Ovarian Cancer Be Found Early? American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/detection.html
Ovarian Cancer. Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375946
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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.
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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.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like structures within an ovary. Symptoms of an ovarian cysts may be:
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- A feeling for the need to have a bowel movement
- Urgency to urinate
- Pain during intercourse.
There are a variety of causes and types of ovarian cysts, and treatment depends upon type of cyst.
Ovarian CystsWhat is an ovarian cyst? Ovarian cyst types vary, and they can cause many symptoms, including abdominal pain. Discover how to tell if you have a ruptured ovarian cyst.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Ovarian Cyst Removal?Cyst removal is major surgery. Hence, it is important to make sure you take enough rest and give your body time for recuperation. Time taken to recover from the surgery is different for everyone. It takes around 12 weeks for the body to complete the healing process.
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 Is The Main Cause of Ovarian Cysts?Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled growths that grow on the ovary. Learn the signs of an ovarian cyst, what causes ovarian cysts, how doctors diagnose ovarian cysts, and what you can do to treat an ovarian cyst. 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 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.