Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Types, Treatment
Synopsis: Information and studies regarding Ovarian cancer, the growth of cells that forms in the ovaries and can multiply quickly, invading and destroying healthy body tissue. Ovarian cancer results in abnormal cells that can invade or spread to other body parts. Symptoms may be vague or not apparent when this process begins, but they become more noticeable as cancer progresses. The risk of ovarian cancer increases in people who ovulate more. Thus, those who have never had children are at increased risk, as are those who begin ovulation at a younger age or reach menopause at an older age. Women with ovarian cancer may have no symptoms or just mild symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a disease where some cells in the ovary undergo changes and develop into cancerous cells. Ovarian cancer can take four different forms, named after the parts of the ovary that are affected. Ovarian cancer results in abnormal cells that can invade or spread to other body parts. Symptoms may be vague or not apparent when this process begins, but they become more noticeable as cancer progresses. These symptoms may include bloating, pelvic pain, and abdominal swelling. Common areas where cancer may spread include the lining of the abdomen, lymph nodes, lungs, and liver. Some people shorten the designated name of Ovarian Cancer to 'OvCa,' pronounced as 'of-car.'
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) has included Ovarian Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable as a Compassionate Allowance to expedite a disability claim.
The risk of ovarian cancer increases in people who ovulate more. Thus, those who have never had children are at increased risk, as are those who begin ovulation at a younger age or reach menopause at an older age. Women with ovarian cancer may have no symptoms or just mild symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- Abnormal periods
- Weight gain or loss
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- A heavy feeling in the pelvis
- Unexplained back pain that gets worse
- Gas, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
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Types of Ovarian Cancer
There are five main subtypes of ovarian carcinoma, of which high-grade serous is the most common.
Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
Epithelial Ovarian Cancer develops in the epithelium or the outer cells covering the ovary. Of the different forms of Ovarian cancer, nine out of ten are epithelial.
Germ Cell and Sex-cord Stromal Cell Ovarian Cancer
Germ cell and Sex-cord Stromal Cell Ovarian cancers are prevalent forms of Ovarian cancer. Germ cell cancers form in the cells, which mature into eggs. This form of cancer normally only affects women under the age of thirty. Sex-cord Stromal Cell cancer forms in the cells and is released in female hormones; this cancer can occur in women of any age. Both of these cancers respond well to treatments; they are frequently curable. In cases where these forms of cancer affect one ovary only, there may remain the potential for a woman to have children after receiving treatment.
There exists a form of tumors known as 'Borderline tumors,' which are a part of a group of Epithelial tumors that are not as aggressive as other forms of Ovarian cancer; they are sometimes referred to with words such as 'low malignant potential,' in descriptions. Women with Borderline tumors have a generally good outlook despite the timing of their diagnosis - early or late.
several tests can be performed should Ovarian cancer be suspected; they can help a doctor make a diagnosis. Unfortunately, none of the tests can be relied upon on their own, so the importance of receiving both a blood test and an ultrasound to give your doctor accurate results cannot be emphasized enough.
Ovarian cancer usually has a relatively poor prognosis. It is disproportionately deadly because it lacks any clear early detection or screening test, meaning most cases are not diagnosed until they have reached advanced stages. However, in some cases, ovarian cancer recurrences are chronically treatable.
A physical examination for Ovarian cancer involves an internal pelvic exam, where the doctor looks for lumps or any masses in the patient's pelvis and lower abdomen.
There is a protein, or tumor marker, in the blood that can be tested for; it is known as 'CA 125.' When higher than normal, the protein is often a sign of Ovarian cancer in women. Sometimes women also have other tumor markers called 'CEA' or 'Inhibin.'
The type of marker found in the blood depends on the type of tumor; however, some tumors do not have any form of marker whatsoever.
Blood testing is one way to look for and help diagnose cancers. Blood testing is also a way to check on the progression of cancer.
Ultrasound and Other Imaging Tests
Another means of assisting in the diagnostic process is through a trans-vaginal ultrasound, or 'TVU.'
A TVU is an ultrasound probe inserted into the vagina, which can then relay images of the ovaries to a radiologist. A TVU gives images of the ovaries in much greater clarity than an ultrasound or external ultrasound, which is why it is an essential diagnostic tool in the fight against these forms of cancer.
In the fight against Ovarian and other cancers, it is wise to pursue routine chest and abdominal x-rays and an ultrasound of the lower abdomen. You may consider having an x-ray of your bowel to ensure that any symptoms you are experiencing are not due to a bowel problem. The bowel x-ray is called a 'barium enema,' and while it is not painful, it may be temporarily uncomfortable.
Ovarian Cancer Facts and Statistics
- Death from ovarian cancer is more common in North America and Europe than in Africa and Asia.
- A woman's lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 75. A woman's lifetime risk of dying from invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 102.
- The American Cancer Society estimates for ovarian cancer in the United States for 2015 are: About 21,290 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer. About 14,180 women will die from ovarian cancer.
- In 2012, ovarian cancer occurred in 239,000 women and resulted in 152,000 deaths worldwide. This makes it, among women, the seventh-most common cancer and the eighth-most common cause of death from cancer.
- Ovarian cancer rates are highest in women aged 55-64 years. The median age at which women are diagnosed is 63, meaning that half of the women are younger than 63 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and half are older.
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