These Ovarian Cancer FAQs are an attempt to spread awareness about ovarian cancer in simplest terms so that each woman on this earth can fight off this disease possibly at an early stage to get a fair chance of survival.
A large number of women world over die every year due to ovarian cancer. Our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and very other woman is at a risk for ovarian cancer which often doesn’t show any signs and symptoms in its early stages. However, awareness about the early signs of ovarian cancer and a little carefulness about detecting anything that doesn’t look or feel normal might save a woman from being a victim of this silent killer called ovarian cancer.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a condition when the normal cells in a woman’s ovary change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. Ovaries are the reproductive organs of women where eggs develop for reproduction.
What are Symptoms and Signs of Ovarian Cancer?
At present, it is quite difficult to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages as there are very few symptoms and signs and also because there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. Often, there are no symptoms of ovarian cancer shown in its early stages and when signs of ovarian cancer start showing up, they are vague and can be easily mistaken for other common ailments. However, three leading international cancer organizations have issued a joint statement according to which the following ovarian cancer symptoms and signs are more likely to occur in women suffering from this cancer of ovaries.
• Pelvic and/or abdominal pain
• Feeling full quickly or difficulty in eating
• Urinary symptoms like urge to urinate often and frequently
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
• Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
• Changes in bowel habits like constipation
• Increased abdominal girth that can be felt when clothes fit tighter around the waist
• Lack of energy, fatigue
• Lower back pain without any explainable cause
Women who experience these symptoms almost daily for more than few weeks and if these symptoms don’t go away, they must see a doctor, preferably a gynecologist.
What are Causes of Ovarian Cancer in Women?
In most of the cases, the causes leading to ovarian cancer remain undisclosed. However, the answer to the question – what causes cancer of ovaries – is sought by everyone. A person can develop ovarian cancer due to several factors.
• Personal or family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
• Certain genetic defects
• Old age
Causes of ovarian cancer can be understood more clearly by knowing about the high risk group and low risk group for ovarian cancer.
Who is at High Risk for Ovarian Cancer?
The highest risk of ovarian cancer is faced by women who are in the age group of 60 -70 years. Women who don’t give birth to children are also at high risk of ovarian cancer. Women with a condition known as endometriosis, and those who receive postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy are also at increased risk for ovarian cancer.
Women who give birth to children earlier in life are at low risk for ovarian cancer. Also more the children, less the risk for developing ovarian cancer. Breast feeding may also reduce the risk of certain types of ovarian cancer. Use of low dose hormonal contraception gives a protective cover against ovarian cancer. The risk also gets lower in women who have had their Fallopian tubes blocked surgically.
What are the Stages of Ovarian Cancer?
‘Stages of Cancer’ is a term used to describe the size of the cancer and the extent of its spread. Knowing the stage of cancer helps doctors in deciding the adequate and the best treatment for ovarian cancer or any other cancer. International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) groups ovarian cancer into four stages. Generally, without laparotomy (an operation in which abdomen is opened up) ovarian cancer cannot be staged. So, the stages of ovarian cancer are determined surgically.
Ovarian Cancer Stages
The table below gives information about the four stages of ovarian cancer.
|Ovarian Cancer Stage 1||Cancer remains confined to one or both the ovaries.|
|Ovarian Cancer Stage 2||Cancer affects one or both ovaries and extends into the pelvis.|
|Ovarian Cancer Stage 3||Cancer affects one or both ovaries with peritoneal metastasis outside the pelvis and/or regional lymph node metastasis. It reaches the abdomen.|
|Ovarian Cancer Stage 4||Distant metastasis beyond the peritoneal cavity and liver parenchymal metastasis. It spreads outside the abdomen, mostly into the lungs.|
How is Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer Done?
As genetic factors cause a great numbers of ovarian cancer, personal and family medical history is closely evaluated by a gynecological oncologist to detect if a woman suffers from ovarian cancer or not. In addition to this, many other medical investigations and examinations may be needed to diagnose ovarian cancer. These may include pelvic examination, ultrasound, CA 125 blood test, and surgery.
How is Ovarian Cancer Treatment Done?
Ovarian cancer treatment of all stages is done through surgery. Surgery may also be the only treatment for early stage cancer. Ovarian cancer treatment options for other advanced stages may include surgery; chemotherapy; and targeted therapy.
For detailed information about diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, read Ovarian Cancer- Diagnosis and Treatment