Symptoms of ovarian cancer can develop at any stage of the condition.
Ovarian cancer is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the ovaries or related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can develop at any stage of the condition and may include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or cramping
- Feeling full quickly after starting to eat or lack of appetite
- Indigestion/upset stomach
- Passing urine more often or urgently than normal
- Unexplained exhaustion
- Bloating and/or constipation
- Excessive flatulence
- Increase abdominal girth or abdominal swelling
- Unexplained pain while having sex
- Menstrual changes (heavier than normal or irregular bleeding)
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
What causes ovarian cancer?
The specific cause of ovarian cancer is still unclear, though doctors have identified factors that can increase the risk of the disease, such as:
- Older age: It is most common in women who are 50 to 60 years, though it can occur at any age.
- Inherited gene mutations: A small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by genetic mutations inherited from the parents. The genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 and breast cancer gene 2. These genes also increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Other gene mutations: Other gene mutations that can cause ovarian cancer include those associated with Lynch syndrome (a hereditary disorder).
- Family history of ovarian cancer: People with two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease.
- Reproductive history: Women who have not had children, who have had assisted reproduction, or who have had children after the age of 35 years may be slightly more at risk.
- Lifestyle factors: Some types of ovarian cancer have been linked to smoking or being overweight.
- Estrogen hormone replacement therapy: It can be a cause of ovarian cancer, especially with long-term use and in large doses.
- Age when menstruation started (menarche) and ended (menopause): Beginning menstruation at an early age or starting menopause at a later age, or both, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Endometriosis: A condition caused by tissue from the lining of the uterus growing outside the uterus.
- Nullipara women: The risk of ovarian cancer is higher in women who have never been pregnant.
Where does ovarian cancer occur?
3 types of ovarian cancer
- Epithelial: The most common type of ovarian cancer (90 percent of cases)
- Clear cell
- Stromal cell: A rare type (8 percent or less)
- Germ cell: A rare type of ovarian cancer (approximately 4 percent of cases)
How is ovarian cancer treated?
The treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
Other treatments may be used, such as:
- Unilateral or bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgical removal of one or both ovaries): Surgery may involve removing the affected ovary (either one or both) and the corresponding fallopian tube. It is usually done when cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.
- Total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgical removal of ovaries along with the uterus): In some cases, where cancer is more extensive or when the preservation of the ability to have children is not an issue, the surgeon will remove the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, nearby lymph nodes, and omentum (a fold of fatty abdominal tissue).
- Chemotherapy: A drug treatment that uses chemicals injected into a vein or taken by mouth to kill fast-growing cancerous cells in the body. In some instances, it can also be used before surgery.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted drug treatments work by focusing on specific weaknesses present within the cancer cells and can cause cancer cells to die.
- Hormonal therapy: This therapy uses drugs to block the effects of the hormone estrogen on ovarian cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: This therapy works by activating the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
- Radiation therapy: It is used to treat ovarian cancer that has spread to the pelvis or er parts of the body.
- Palliative care: A specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.