About Ovarian Cancer
Cancer is a disease caused when cells divide uncontrollably and spread into surrounding tissues.
Ovarian cancer occurs in 1 in 78 women and is the deadliest of the gynecological cancers. It is the fifth leading cause of death among women.
The average age of diagnosis is late 50’s to early 60’s. However, it can and does occur in females of ALL ages, races, and ethnicities.
Several types of “ovarian” cancer exist and are named after the cell type they start in.
- Epithelial is the most common ovarian cancer and starts on the surface of the ovaries.
- Germ Cell is rare and originates in the reproductive (egg) cells of the ovaries.
- Stromal Cell is very rare and originates in the connective tissue that holds an ovary together.
- Small Cell is extremely rare, and it is not certain if the cells are from epithelial, germ, or stromal cells.
While these are all called ovarian cancer, they are each unique in terms of where they originate, cell structure, treatment, and prognosis.
Ovarian Cancer Risks
- Increase in age
- Having children later in life
- Taking hormone therapy after menopause
- Having a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer
- Ashkenazi Jewish descent
- BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch Syndrome
- Using fertility treatment
Reduce the Risk of Ovarian Cancer
- Removal of the ovaries
- Birth control (Oral contraceptives)
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms – Most Common
Ovarian cancer does have symptoms. They can be very subtle and easily attributed to other common ailments. These symptoms are more likely to appear when the cancer has spread and is in a later stage.
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary frequency and/or urgency
These symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions, and most of them occur just about as often in women who don’t have ovarian cancer. However, if they are abnormal, for you, and frequent (over a two week or more period), or persistent (more than 12 times a month) see your doctor so the problem can be found and treated if necessary.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms – Other
Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by those with ovarian cancer. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.
- Fatigue, extreme exhaustion
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Menstrual changes
- Pain with intercourse
- Abdominal swelling with weight loss
Ovarian Cancer Detection
Currently no reliable screening or early detection tests exist for ovarian cancer. The Pap test does not test for ovarian cancer; it screens for cervical cancer.
Your doctor may perform a:
- Vaginal/rectal exam
- Transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound,
- CT scan
- CA-125 blood test – The CA-125 blood test measures the amount of a specific protein called cancer antigen 125, or CA-125, in a person’s blood. Elevated CA-125 levels may suggest ovarian cancer, but they can also be caused by many benign conditions.
These tests, individually, may not provide sufficient information. They are most effective when used with each other.
If ovarian cancer is suspected get referred to a gynecologic oncologist as soon as possible. Studies have shown that patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer generally have a better likelihood of prolonged survival if treated by a gynecologic oncologist.
For more information or to receive a GOCA Awareness Kit, please contact us.