Ovarian cancer

Description of Ovarian cancer

 
Definition
 
Ovarian cancer is the result of uncontrolled growth of cells of the ovaries in women. Since the ovaries secrete hormones, ovarian cancer can lead to severe menstrual problems.
Ovarian cancer generally occurs after menopause, between 50 years and 60 years of age.
 
Causes and Risk Factors
 
Causes include,
1. Genetic mutation: The genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are breast cancer causing genes are known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
2. Hereditary: Ovarian cancer runs in family
Following women are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer who,
1. Have taken estrogen hormone replacement therapy after menopause
2. Have never conceived
3. Have taken fertility treatment with certain medications like clomiphene citrate for more than a year.
4. Smoke
 
Signs and Symptoms
 
Ovarian cancer may produce no symptoms or many vague signs and symptoms in the initial stages. Generally, it is seen that when the disease has spread beyond ovaries, it produces clearer symptoms.
Early symptoms include:
1. Bloating of abdomen
2. Pain in abdomen or pelvic region
3. Difficulty in eating or feeling full too early
4. Urinary symptoms like increased frequency and urgency

These symptoms can occur in many other noncancerous diseases and even in cancers of other organs. However, when occurring due to cancer of ovaries, the symptoms are persistent and occur more frequently or are more severe.
Others symptoms include:
1. Fatigue
2. Upset stomach
3. Backache
4. Painful sex
5. Constipation
6. Altered menstrual cycle
7. Swelling of abdomen with weight loss
 
Investigations
 
1. Blood test
b) CA-125: It detects CA-125, a protein found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.
2. Imaging test: Imaging tests like transvaginal ultrasonography (TVUSG), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), x-ray, CT scans, and PET (positron emission tomography) are done to know if cancer has spread beyond ovaries. These tests are mostly done after ovarian cancer is diagnosed.
a) Biopsy

Treatment
 
Being difficult to treat cancer, early detection and aggressive treatment are essential in saving the life. The combination of two treatment options from the following is usually used in treating ovarian cancer:
1. Surgery: It is the mainstay of treating ovarian cancer. Depending on the stage of the disease the extent of surgery is determined. Only the ovaries or the uterus and fallopian tubes too might be surgically removed.
2. Medical therapy,
(a) Chemotherapy and targeted chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is done to kill the cancer cells. The novel targeted therapy is a recent development for treating cancer which uses drugs or other substances that identify and attack cancer cells without much harm to other normal cells.
(b) Hormone therapy: Certain estrogen derivatives are prescribed to shrink the tumor cells.
(c) Radiation therapy: Radiation is used to kill cancer cells using gamma or other rays.
 
Complications and When Should You See a Doctor
 
Common complications are:
1. Fatigue or weakness
2. Nausea or vomiting
3. Constipation
4. Swelling of the extremities
5. Anemia
The major complications that can be seen are bowel obstruction, pleural effusion, bladder obstruction, and malabsorption.
Symptoms that you should notice are bloating of abdomen, pain in abdomen or pelvic region, difficulty in eating or feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms like urgency or frequency.
 
Prognosis and Prevention
 
Prognosis depends upon the stage of the disease. Regular visits to your gynecologist for pelvic examination may be helpful in early detection.
The best way to prevent ovarian cancer is to undergo screening regularly after the age of 40 years so it can be detected in early stages.
Content Details
Last updated on:
01 Nov 2021 | 04:55 PM (IST)
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