Ovarian cancer is one of the most common gynecological problems. This type of cancer often does not cause any symptoms, which is why it leads to more deaths than any other cancer in the female reproductive system. If you or someone close to you has been affected by ovarian cancer, learning more about it can help you through the journey.
This section has information about what ovarian cancer is and the risk factors associated with this disease. You can also find out more about the different diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer, stages of cancer and the treatment options available.
Ovarian cancer doesn’t often cause symptoms in its early stages. Even when there are symptoms, it is difficult to detect because these can be mistaken for other more-common conditions. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
Ovarian cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the ovaries. Ovaries are the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus.
Ovarian cancer cells can form in 3 areas: an ovary’s surface, in an ovary’s egg-producing cells and in tissues with an ovary. Cancer cells most commonly appear on the surface of an ovary.
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, as the symptoms are often vague and similar to those in other non-cancer conditions affecting women. It often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At these later stages, ovarian cancer is difficult to treat and can be fatal.
At the moment, there are no definitive screening tests for ovarian cancer, however genetic tests do exist that can identify women who are at greater risk for the disease.
Persistence of symptoms is key. If your symptoms are unrelenting and have not resolved with normal interventions, such as diet change, it is important to see your doctor. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition describes that, as these symptoms are broad, only 19% of ovarian cancer in the United States is found in the early stages.
If a doctor suspects ovarian cancer, he or she will order a series of tests and procedures. These include:
Doctors use the results of your surgery to help determine how far the cancer has spread. This process is called staging. This is very important because ovarian cancers at different stages are treated differently. Stages of ovarian cancer include:
After your diagnosis, a customised treatment plan will be developed taking into consideration the stage of your ovarian cancer, your age and your overall health. There are 3 main treatment types for ovarian cancer:
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, but some factors appear to reduce your risk: