Introduction to Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women and the most common in women over the age of 50 (postmenopausal).
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women and the most common in women over the age of 50 (postmenopausal). It is when the cells of an ovary (the small organ responsible for containing and release eggs) become abnormal and divide rapidly forming a lesion. The symptoms are variable and can be similar to other conditions. You should visit your doctor if you experience constant bloating, pelvic and lower abdomen pain and trouble eating.
What are the causes for Ovarian Cancer?
There are many possible causes of ovarian cancer that have been identified. Some cases as sporadic (random) or there could be genetic involvement. Cancer involves mutations, which are changes in the DNA. This causes the cells to be abnormal and grow faster than they should. Some types of radiation can cause these mutations to occur.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age and most cases occur postmenopausally. If two or more close female relatives have suffered from breast or ovarian cancer, you may also possess a mutation that could increase the risk of developing this disease. This may be especially true if the affected relatives were younger than 50 years of age. Genetic testing is available and increased monitoring is important.
The contraceptive pill is known to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer and hormonal replacement therapy can slightly increase the risk. Endometriosis is another known risk factor for ovarian cancer.
What are the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Symptoms are variable and depend on the size and location of the cancer. They can be hard to recognise in the early stages of the disease as the symptoms are similar to that of other common conditions. There are three main symptoms that seems to affect a large proportion of women with ovarian cancer. They are constant bloating and increase in the size of the abdomen, constant pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic region, trouble eating, loss of appetite, feeling nauseous and full very quickly after eating. Some patients also experience back pain and increased frequency of urination. Constipation and pain during sex are other symptoms that may occur.
How is Ovarian Cancer treated?
Your doctor will perform an examination and may order some blood tests (e.g. CA125), scans (e.g. ultrasound) and other tests to determine the presence of a cancer. Treatment depends on the stage (size and spread of cancer), presence of other conditions and whether conservation of the ability to become pregnant is of importance to the patient.
Surgery and chemotherapy are the two commonest treatments performed in an attempt to reduce to size of the tumour and remove it completely. Depending on how advanced the ovarian cancer is, it may or may not be curable. A team of multidisciplinary specialists support patients throughout their cancer management and offer advice and support whenever it is required.