Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries. The ovaries are two round reproductive organs responsible for making female hormones, they also produce the eggs that are fertilized to make a baby. There are a few types of ovarian cancer, but the most common are known as epithelial tumors which start on the surface of the ovary.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer for women. The average age for diagnosis is 63 years old. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are over 21,900 new cases diagnosed each year and 14,270 deaths.
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Ovarian Cancer Causes
Some of the risk factors that can raise your chance of developing ovarian cancer include:
- A family history of the disease
- Advanced age
- Overweight or obese
- You have stopped having periods (post-menopausal)
- Family history of breast or colon cancer
- You have a history of breast cancer
There are also lifestyle factors that can lower your risk for ovarian cancer. These include:
- You’ve been pregnant
- You are breastfeeding
- You have taken or are taking birth control pills
- You follow a low fat diet
- You have had tubal ligation surgery
- Your uterus has been removed but still have your ovaries
Ovarian Cancer Prevention
Unfortunately, there are no screening tools that can identify ovarian cancer early. In many cases, ovarian cancer has no symptoms until it is very advanced and this makes it hard to identify. Only about 1 in every 5 ovarian cancer cases is found early.
The best prevention is to make sure you keep all annual exams with your provider or report any changes in your body to your provider promptly.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Remember that most early ovarian cancers have no symptoms. Here is a list of some symptoms that could manifest as cancer progresses. Make sure to report any changes in your body to a healthcare professional.
- Swelling abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling full quickly when you eat
- Urinary incontinence
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Back pain
- Upset stomach
Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are vague and can be related to a variety of other health problems that are not cancerous. Don’t overlook any new symptoms—especially if they are persistent—and have them evaluated.
Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
To diagnose ovarian cancer, a doctor will typically start with a physical exam and questions about your symptoms. From there, you may need a variety of tests including:
- Blood work
- An ultrasound of your ovaries
- CT scans
- Chest X-rays
- PET scans
- Biopsy and others if your provider feels they are needed
The only way to know for certain if you have cancer is with a biopsy. Your provider will use many diagnostic tools to look for a tumor or mass in your abdomen and will probably take a biopsy (tissue sample from the area) during surgery to remove the tumor or mass.
The tissue will be examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells. Your provider may also need to test other areas of tissue around the tumor to see how far the cancer has spread. This is called staging .
Cancers that are still inside the ovary and haven’t spread to other tissues are called stage 1 cancers. Cancers that have spread to other organs—especially those far away from the ovaries are called stage 4, or the most aggressive cancers.
Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Your treatment will depend greatly on how advanced your cancer is and if it is in any other tissues of your body. Your medical team will decide what treatments are right for you. Ovarian cancer treatments can include:
- Targeted drug therapy
Ovarian Cancer Support
The earlier ovarian cancer is found, the better your chances of successful treatment. If you find yourself facing an ovarian cancer diagnosis, it can be scary and you may have a lot of questions. Ask your doctor for information about a cancer support group.
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