Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly cancers; it is the 5th most common cancer in women. Ovarian cancer has the highest death rate than any other cancer in female.
What causes ovarian cancer?
There are no particular causes known for ovarian cancer; however, there are some factors which put women at risk. Genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 may be responsible for this cancer; women having a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer have more risk of developing ovarian cancer. Older women are also at risk for ovarian cancer. Women having estrogen replacement for 5 years, or more than 5 years are also at risk for ovarian cancer.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are so common that a diagnosis may not be made immediately. Quite often, when ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the cancer may have already spread outside of the ovaries. Women should consult their doctor immediately if they have abdominal or pelvic pain, abnormal menstrual cycles, constipation, or discomfort of lower abdomen.
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
Loss of appetite
Urgency in urination
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
Your physician will need to do some tests in order to confirm or rule out the presence of ovarian cancer. A series of lab tests will need to be done, such as a CBC, Urinalysis, blood chemistry profile, Alpha fetoprotein, CA – 125, and there may be tests done to check for pregnancy hormones, if indicated.
Your doctor will also need to order some imaging tests which may include a CT scan of the abdomen, an MRI of the abdomen and an Ultrasound.
If the tests indicate there may be ovarian cancer, the doctor may want to do a pelvic laparoscopy to take a minimally invasive look inside of your pelvic area.
What are some treatment options for ovarian cancer?
Treatment options for ovarian cancer usually will include surgery and chemotherapy. The surgeon may do an exploratory laparotomy to look at all of the pelvic organs to see if tumors have moved from the ovaries to other structures in the pelvis. In many cases the surgeon removes the uterus, fallopian tubes and both ovaries. The surgeon may also need to perform a complete or fractional omentum removal which is the removal of the fatty layer which wraps and pads the abdominal and pelvic organs. Other tissues that may need to be removed are the lymph nodes in the pelvic region.
Ovarian cancer surgery is usually preformed by a surgical oncologist. The success rate of ovarian cancer surgery is quite good, if the cancer is found early enough. After surgery, the woman usually goes through chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells that may be left. Chemo is sometimes given directly into the abdominal cavity or it is sometimes given intravenously.
After surgery, the woman will need to undergo a physical exam every 2 to 4 months for first 2 years. Then the physical exams can be reduced to every 6 months for the next 3 years. Following that, the checkups will go to once yearly. At each checkup, a CA-125 blood test will be done if the previous one was elevated. Your doctor can also suggest a periodic CT scan of your pelvis and abdomen and chest X-ray to follow your recovery.