A common form of cancer in women, ovarian cancer affects the ovaries that are responsible for the production of eggs and hormones known as estrogen and progesterone. It can be extremely difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer in its early stages as it projects zero symptoms. In most cases, it is discovered when it is spread to the abdomen and pelvis.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer
The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer in its initial stages are quite ordinary. Therefore, it is very easy for them to go unnoticed for a prolonged period. Moreover, they might be intermittent in nature. Some of the early signs include:
- Feeling full after having a meal quickly
- An urge to urinate frequently
- Pain and pressure in the abdomen
Some additional ovarian cancer symptoms include:
- Trouble with digestion, i.e., constipation
- Irregularities in the menstrual cycles
- Pain while having intercourse
- Back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dermatomyositis (an inflammatory disease that is characterized by skin rashes, inflammation of the muscles and muscle weakness.)
It is important to note that they symptoms stated above might not be necessarily caused by ovarian cancer. However, if they are persistently affecting you, then it is wise to consult a gynecologist to rule out all the possibilities. If ovarian cancer is detected in its early stages, then it is easier to treat it. Conversely, in the later stages, where it takes the form of metastatic cancer, its treatment can get increasingly difficult.
The exact reason for the onset of ovarian cancer is still undiscovered. However, the following factors can magnify the risk of ovarian cancer:
- No history of pregnancy
- Medical history of uterine, breast, colon cancer
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Having genetically-mutated genes like BRCA1 or BRCA2 which are associated with ovarian cancer
- Using certain fertility medications or hormone therapies
Furthermore, the risk of ovarian cancer increases as a woman ages. Therefore, it is common to notice ovarian cancer in women who have gone through menopause. However, it can affect a woman of any age.
The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are diagnosed with the help of blood test to assess the levels of cancer antigen 125 (CA-125), pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, abdominal and pelvic CT scan and biopsy.
Types of ovarian cancer
There are three types of ovarian cancer:
The epithelial tumor originates in the thin layer of tissue that covers the external part of ovaries. It is the most common type of ovarian cancer affecting over 90 percent of the patients.
These tumors develop in the ovarian tissue that produces hormones. As compared to the other forms of ovarian cancer, these are typically detected in the early stages.
The germ-cell tumors affect the cells that are responsible for the creation of eggs. This type of cancer is rare and is generally diagnosed in young women.
Depending on the type and stage of ovarian cancer, the doctors will more likely opt for a combination of treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and supportive care. Surgeries for ovarian cancer include removal of one or both ovaries or removal of uterus along with ovaries. If cancer has affected the other parts of the body, the doctors may have to surgically remove them as well.