Ovarian Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatments
Commonly asked questions about ovarian cancer:
- What is ovarian cancer?
- What are the types of ovarian cancer?
- Ovarian cancer risk factors
- Ovarian cancer causes
- Ovarian cancer symptoms
- Ovarian cancer treatments
- What are surgical treatment options for ovarian cancer?
- How to prevent cancer
- What drugs are used to prevent ovarian cancer?
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
The ovaries are a pair of ductless reproductive glands in which female reproductive cells are produced. Without the ovaries, a female will be unable to reproduce as the body will not have the needed supply of reproductive cells.
Ovarian cancer is a form of cancer whose initial growth takes place in the ovaries, potentially spreading to other areas of the body and preventing the glands from functioning properly. Not a single form of cancer, the term “ovarian cancer” is used to group together over 30 types of cancer whose origins are found in the ovaries.
Although over 30 forms of the cancer exist, most of those forms begin their development in one of the following cell types:
- Surface Epithelium (Cells Of The Outer Lining Of Ovaries)
- Germ Cells (Cells That From Eggs)
- Stromal Cells (Cells That Realease Hormones)
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancers rank fifth in cancer deaths among women in the United States with over 14,000 women dying from the disease each year. In addition to those deaths, over 22,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with an ovarian cancer each year.
What Are The Types Of Ovarian Cancer?
Of the various forms of ovarian cancer, the following are the most notable and commonly diagnosed.
Epithelial tumors are uncontrollable cancerous growths that originate in the cells of the outer layer of the ovary. There are various types of epithelial tumors with the benign types being serous adenomas, mucinous adenomas, and Brenner tumors.
This form of ovarian cancer is the most common form, with nearly 90% of all ovarian cancer diagnosis being epithelial tumors. Part of what makes this form of ovarian cancer so deadly is the difficulty women have in detecting it before it enters an advanced stage of development – over 70% of women don’t discover the cancer until this point.
Germ Cell Tumors
Ovarian germ cell tumors originate in the ova or eggs with most of it’s forms coming as benign tumors. Although most instances of a germ cell tumor may be benign, the cancerous forms are dangerous and can often develop into a fatal condition.
These tumors are most commonly found in teenagers and young adults with a reported 5-year survival rate of nearly 90% due to advancements in treatment effectiveness.
Stromal tumors are tumors that rarely develop but begin their development in the connective tissue that holds the ovary together. Most of these tumors come in the form of granulosa-theca tumors or Sertoli-Leydig cell tumors.
This form of ovarian cancer only accounts for up to 2% of all diagnosed cases of ovarian cancer.
Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma
Primary peritoneal carcinoma is a unique form of ovarian cancer as it can develop even after an individual’s ovaries have been removed. This form of ovarian cancer develops in the cells of the peritoneum (abdominal lining) and is similar in many ways to epithelial ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors
What Are Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors?
Risk factors are factors that, when applied to an individual, indicate or lead to a higher development rate of ovarian cancer compared to the standard person. For all forms of cancer, there are several risk factors that can be identified by a self-examination or medical observation.
There are two main groups of risk factors, those that an individual has control over and those that an individual has no control over. Different risk factors can indicate different levels of heightened risk.
It is important to note that all risk factors carry a correlative relationship with ovarian cancer, none carry a direct causative relationship. This relationship means that even if someone is subjected to multiple risk factors they may never develop ovarian cancer, although their risk will be far higher than most.
Some of the most influential ovarian cancer risk factors can be found bellow:
Does Age Play A Role In Ovarian Cancer?
Age plays a major role in the development of ovarian cancer, although the exact reason is not yet known. While the cancer can develop in women of any age, it is most commonly reported in those between the ages of 50 and 60.
Do Genetics Play A Role In Ovarian Cancer?
Like most forms of cancer, genetics can play a major role in cancer and in some cases may be the sole cause of cancer development. Gene mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are often connected to heightened levels of ovarian cancer development.
Does Menstruation Play A Role In Ovarian Cancer?
The timeline of an individuals menstruation can also help determine if an individual is more at risk of developing ovarian cancer than most other individuals. Those who began menstruation before age 12 or experienced menopause after age 52 are often at a greater risk of ovarian cancer than others.
While the exact reason is unknown, this risk increase is believed to be tied to those individuals being exposed to high levels of estrogen and progesterone for longer periods of time.
What Are Other Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors?
Other risk factors that may play a role in increasing an individuals risk of ovarian cancer include:
- Estrogen Replacement Therapy
- Lack Of Pregnancy
- fertility Treatment
- Use Of Intrauterine Device
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Ovarian Cancer?
Although there is no definitive ovarian cancer prevention method, those who are at risk of ovarian cancer can pursue various risk-reducing efforts. While pursuing these efforts may reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer, it is still possible for the cancer to occur.
Some of the most effective preventative measures include:
- Use Of Oral Contraceptives
- Breastfed Children
- Aspirin Use
What Causes Ovarian Cancer?
How Do I Get Ovarian Cancer?
While it is widely accepted that cancer growth begins once a DNA mutation has occurred, the exact cause of the necessary DNA mutation has not yet been discovered.
Once the mutation has occurred, the afflicted cells will begin growing at a rate that far surpasses what the body can accommodate. Additionally, the cells produced will experience and increase lifespan that far surpasses that of a noncancerous cell. With these cells growing at such a high rate and not dying off, a mass or tumor will begin to form and effect the function of the ovaries.
If the growths are able to reach sufficient size, cells may begin to break off and spread to other areas of the body. Ovarian cancer is most commonly diagnosed after this spread of cancer has occurred.
What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Early-stage ovarian cancer does not often carry any noticeable symptoms, one of the main reasons the cancer is difficult to detect early.
Although they may not be present early, symptoms of ovarian cancer should still be looked for as part of any self-examination to determine ones health. The symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic Or Abdominal Pain
- Eating Irregularities
- Urinary Symptoms
- Weight Loss
- Bowel Habit Irregularities
Ovarian Cancer Treatments
When ovarian cancer is diagnosed, a medical professional will be able to consult with the afflicted to determine which treatment method is best suited for their needs. While a cure for cancer has not been discovered, advances in medical treatments have led to a drop in death rates and increase in survival rates.
Treating ovarian cancer most often includes surgery but may also include non-surgical techniques. The non-surgical techniques that may be used with surgery include:
What Are Surgical Treatment Options For Ovarian Cancer?
In a total hysterectomy a surgeon will remove the entire uterus and cervix in an effort to not only rid the body of the cancer but reduce the risk of any dormant cancer cells surviving.
A unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy involves a surgeon removing only the cancerous ovary and it’s fallopian tube.
When performed, a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy will have a surgeon remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes. This is for cancer they may have spread and is to reduce the risk of recurrence or further spread.
An omentectomy involves a surgeon removing the fatty tissue attached to organs in the abdominal area. The removed fatty tissue is then test to determine if the ovarian cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Lymph Node Biopsy
Lymph nodes of ovarian cancer patients are removed and tested in the same fashion as fatty acids are in an omentectomy. If it is determined that the nodes are infected with cancer, a surgeon may elect to pursue additional surgery to rid the body of cancer.
How to Prevent Cancer
Cancer prevention can vary based on different research, and opinionated studies or news reports. However, these simple lifestyle changes can make a difference in the prevention of developing or forming cancer.
- Eat Healthy
- Limit or Stop your use of Tabacco
- Have a Balanced Lifestyle
- Avoid Risk Behavior
- Visit your Doctor
- Protect your Skin from the Sun
What Drugs are Used To Treat Ovarian Cancer?
The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of ovarian cancer, according to Drugs.com:
- Cytoxan Lyophilized