Ovarian cancer is a type of gynecological cancer that arises from cells within the ovary (the part of the female reproductive system which produces eggs and female hormones).
Ovarian cancer is not very common and it is hard to detect early. So it often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen, thus it causes more deaths than other female reproductive cancers.
Causes and Risk factors
The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, it may sometimes cause when a cell develops errors (mutations) in its DNA.
The following are some of the risk factors that are linked to a higher chance of developing ovarian cancer:
- Age: Mostly ovarian cancer occur in women ages 50 to 60
- Family History: Women with close relatives who have had ovarian or breast cancer have a higher risk
- Inherited gene mutations: A small percentage of inherited genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Breast Cancer: Women who have diagnosed with breast cancer has an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer
- Hormone replacement therapy: Long term HRT, in large doses increase the risk of ovarian cancer
- Obesity: women who are obese appear to increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer
- Endometriosis: women who develop endometriosis have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer
- Beginning menstruation early or starting menopause at a later age increase the risk of ovarian cancer
In the early stages of ovarian cancer there will be a few or no symptoms and those symptoms may resemble those of other conditions like temporary bladder problem, IBS or PMS. But the symptoms of ovarian cancer will be persistent and worsens gradually.
The early symptoms include:
- Pain in pelvis or lower abdomen
- Back Pain
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- As the cancer progress, the following symptoms also begin:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite and tiredness
- Quickly feeling full when eating
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
During the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, the doctor will do a pelvic exam, to feel the size, shape and consistency of the ovaries and uterus. The doctor will also take your medical history to look for the signs of ovarian cancer. If you are suspect to have ovarian cancer, the doctor will order the following tests to check further:
- Computer Tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan
- Blood tests(CA125) – This is a ovarian cancer marker which will be high if you have ovarian cancer.
Usually the treatment for ovarian cancer involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The following are the operations to remove ovarian cancer:
- To remove one or both the ovaries in early stages
- To remove both the ovaries and uterus, along with lymphnodes and omentum.
- Surgery for advanced care – Staging laprotomy, intraoperative chemotherapy
- HIPEC (Hyperthermic intraperitonial chemotherapy)- After surgery, chemotherapy is installed inside your abdomen while maintaining high temperature inside abdomen.
- After surgery chemotherapy will be given to remove the remaining cancerous cells.
Dr Shivakumar Uppala is a renowned surgical oncologist in North Bangalore Hospital, Bangalore. He has considerable training and experience in treating and managing different types of cancer.
Authored By : Dr. Shiva Kumar Uppala