Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer teal ribbon

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview

The ovary is a very important part of the reproductive system and is directly involved in the production of eggs and essential sex hormones. Diseases of the ovary may arise at any point of time in the life of a woman, especially in the post-menopausal phase. One common disease of the ovary that is affecting many elderly women all over the world is “Ovarian Cancer”. It has been found to be the eight most common type of cancer in women. According to epidemiological studies by the American Cancer Society, 140,000 fatalities are reported each year (globally) due to ovarian cancer. Therefore it is clear that ovarian cancer has a direct impact on the life expectancy of women all over the world.

 

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancerOvarian cancer is the medical term for abnormal and uncontrollable cell growth within the ovary that proliferates and spreads to other vital organs with time. In every woman, one of the ovaries is responsible for the production of eggs (ova) and the other ovary is responsible for the production of the sex hormones viz- estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer results due to abnormal growth of any of the three types of cells that constitute the ovary such as- epithelial cells, germ cells, and stromal cells. In most cases, the tumors are benign and do not spread to the neighboring organs. But in a few cases, the tumors are malignant and invade the adjoining tissues and organs causing ovarian cancer.

 

What causes ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer may be an outcome of numerous environmental, physiological and psychological factors. The general etiological factors behind ovarian cancer are described below-

  • Age: Ovarian cancer is common in elderly women above 50, in the premenopausal phase due to a sharp decline in the levels of the two essential sex hormones that is, estrogen and progesterone.
  • Obesity: Studies have shown that overweight women, especially the ones having a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal to or above 30 are more prone to ovarian cancer.
  • Childbirth: Women having no children or having children after the age of 35 are more vulnerable to ovarian cancer. These risks are reduced after 1-1.5 years of breastfeeding.
  • Drugs: Prolonged intake of fertility drugs such as clomiphene citrate can increase chances of ovarian cancer in women who fail to get pregnant even after taking these drugs. Also, women taking Danazol which enhances the secretion of androgen hormones might have increased risks of ovarian cancer.
  • Hormonal therapies: Women undergoing hormone replacement therapies (to prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal phase) are prone to ovarian cancer conditions. These conditions are more prominent in women having only estrogen intake and not progesterone.
  • Heredity: Family history of ovarian cancer can lead to similar diseases in the future generations as well. Mutated variants of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are responsible for inherited ovarian cancer.
  • Existing malignancies: Presence of breast, uterine or colorectal cancer can contribute to ovarian cancer. Endometriosis can also lead to such serious conditions.

 

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer scarsOvarian cancer is typically manifested through the following symptoms-

  • Frequent urge to pass urine
  • Vaginal bleeding or other abnormal vaginal discharge in post-menopausal women
  • Feeling of pain and pressure in the lower abdomen and pelvic region
  • Pain radiating from the abdominal region to back
  • Abnormal bloating of the abdomen due to an accumulation of excess fluid (ascites)
  • Loss of appetite and feeling of fullness even after a very small meal
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation, diarrhea or dyspepsia
  • Painful intercourse
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle in premenstrual women
  • Extreme fatigue and general body ache
  • Breathlessness due to fluid accumulation in lungs (pleural effusion in advanced stages)
  • Bowel obstruction due to a growth of a mass in the abdomen

 

Types of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is classified according to the type of ovarian cell affected. These are described below-

  • Epithelial ovarian tumors: Majority of ovarian tumors belong to this category (85-90%). They originate from the cells that form the outer layer of the ovary. Epithelial ovarian carcinomas may be of serous, mucinous, endometrioid and clear cell types. Epithelial tumors spread to the inner linings of the abdomen and pelvis. Accumulation of excess fluid may result in this condition (ascites) that leads to abdominal swelling.
  • Germ cell ovarian tumors: They constitute about 2% of all ovarian tumors. They have the following subtypes-
  • Teratoma: They are also called dermoid cysts and are made up of tissues similar to the dermis. Immature Teratomas usually generate from connective tissues.
  • Dysgerminoma: It usually affects women in their twenties or teenagers. It is usually cured by complete removal of the ovary.
  • Choriocarcinoma: It usually originates in placenta and in very rare cases starts in the ovary. Few tumors of this category do not respond well to chemotherapy.
  • Stromal cell ovarian carcinoma: Tumours of this category produce excess quantities of estrogen and at times androgen. This leads to vaginal bleeding in many cases.

 

Stages of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer passes through the following stages-

  • Stage I: Tumours are present on the ovarian surface or within the accumulated abdominal fluid.
  • Stage II: Tumours spread to the tissues of the fallopian tubes and uterus.
  • Stage III: Tumours spread to the omentum (fatty tissues hanging from colon and stomach), diaphragm, intestine and the outer surface of the liver.
  • Stage IV: Cancerous cells spread to the liver, lungs, and spleen.

 

Diagnosis

The following diagnostic tests are usually recommended for proper treatment of ovarian cancers-

  • MRI scans to detect abnormal pelvic masses
  • Ultrasound of ovaries to detect solid tumors or fluid-filled cysts
  • CT scans to detect the spread of tumors to other organs, especially the lymph nodes
  • Laparoscopy to detect stage of cancer
  • Biopsy (performed after any of the previous tests give positive results)
  • Blood tests

 

Treatment and prevention

Treatment 

Ovarian cancer teal ribbonSurgery 

  • Surgical methods to treat the early stages of ovarian cancer will include removing one ovary and the fallopian tube.
  • In case cancer has spread to both the ovaries and not the abdomen; both the ovaries and the fallopian tubes will be removed, leaving the uterus intact.
  • If it is a severe case of ovarian cancer, both the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the uterus will be removed.
  • Doctors may recommend chemotherapy followed by surgery to try to remove the cancer cells completely.

Chemotherapy – Here, cancer-killing drugs are given orally or intravenously to the patient to help treat cancer.

Targeted therapy – The weak link among the cancer cells are targeted here to help treat ovarian cancer.

Palliative (supportive) care –Those who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, will be recommended to undergo palliative care to help them cope with the condition and the treatment side effects.

Prevention 

  • Consult healthcare specialists before taking oral contraception. Though oral contraception is known to reduce the risks of ovarian cancer, they have their side effects too.
  • Go for a routine gynecological check-up.
  • Do not indulge in smoking, as it is one of the leading causes of ovarian cancer.
  • Maintain extra care from these risk factors if you have a family history of ovarian cancer.

 

  1. https://ovariancancer.gog199.cancer.gov/
  2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-finds-regular-aspirin-use-may-reduce-ovarian-cancer-risk
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29205312
  4. https://canceraustralia.gov.au/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/statistics/index.htm

 

 

Facts

  • More than 14o,000 American women die due to ovarian cancer every year.
  • It is one of the deadliest gynecological diseases.
  • There are more than 30 types of ovarian cancers.

Facts

  • If ovarian cancer is detected in its early stages (stage 1 and 2) there are 70-75% chances of treating the condition.
  • Ovarian cancer is the 5th deadliest cancer among women.

Facts

  • Genes linked to breast cancer tend to increase the chances of ovarian cancer.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Reduce your stress levels and keep your mind calm and clean. This helps in making sure that other medical conditions do not arise or aggravate. Stress is also known to decrease the effectiveness of the immune system.
  • Join a support group to help cope with the treatment and condition.
Don'ts
  • Consume unhealthy foods such as oily, refined and processed food.
  • Indulge in smoking; it is a leading cause of many illnesses and cancers.
  • Indulge in illicit sex; those who have multiple sexual partners are at a higher risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases.

 

 

 

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Hepatitis A virus infected liver
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total Blood test to look for IgM antibodies to know if you are infected with Hepatitis A virus (HAV),…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble tea became popular.…
EEG
Electroencephalogram – EEG EEG or electroencephalogram is a diagnostic tool used to access the functioning of neurons and brain activity to…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
free psa test
Free PSA Test The free PSA test is used to detect the level or percentage of free PSA in the body…
HSV-1_IGG
Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody & stays in the blood…
Isagenix diet weight loss
How are BMI and BMR different and what do these numbers mean? BMI and BMR are two important metrics that provide a clear picture of your body's metabolism and also…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Jack in the box fast food
Jack In the Box : The perils of surging fast food culture in the USA Jack in the Box - How a culture of fast-food can clog your arteries, weaken your heart, fatten…
Cottage cheese: What can you find in this healthy chunk of fresh milk cheese? Love cheese but scared of putting on extra pounds? With cottage cheese, you can get the best of…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Sciatica pain relief: Get rid of the pain with these easy daily tips Researchers have claimed that not only heat but icing the area too helps relieve sciatica pain. Find out…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Vitamin-D-blood-test
25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test 25-hydroxy Vitamin D test is a blood test used to measure the level of vitamin D in the…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
Tight phimosis ring
Phimosis Read to know everything about phimosis, types, symptoms, treatment, risks and prognosis for patients with this condition.
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…