Ovarian cancer is a type of cell growth that develops in the ovaries. These cells multiply rapidly and inevitably invade and destroy healthy biological tissue.
The female reproductive system consists of two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries, each about the size of an almond, also produce the hormones progesterone and oestrogen.
It is possible that ovarian cancer develops without showing any early signs.
The symptoms and signs can include:
- Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
- Feeling full quickly after eating
- Loss of weight
- Discomfort around the pelvis
- Back ache
- Alterations in bowel habits, like constipation
- A persistent urge to urinate
Although there are factors that may increase the risk of disease, the cause of this cancer remains unknown.
As far as medical professionals know, ovarian cancer develops when cells in or near the ovaries undergo DNA changes. The instructions that control a cell’s actions are encoded in its DNA. The changes cause the cells to rapidly divide and enlarge, creating a mass (tumor) of cancer cells. Cancer cells continue to exist after healthy cells die. They are able to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body by invading neighboring tissues and detaching from an original tumor.
Types of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer type and the best treatments will be determined by the type of cell that the cancer first appears in. This type of cancer include:
Ovarian Epithelial Cancer: This type is the most common. Serous carcinoma and mucinous carcinoma are two of its many subtypes.
Stromal Tumors: Compared to other ovarian malignancies, these uncommon tumors are typically discovered at an earlier stage.
Germ Cell Cancers: These uncommon ovarian tumors typically develop in younger patients.
The risk factors include the following:
- Aged longer: Risk of ovarian cancer increases with age.
- Inherited gene changes: Changes in DNA inherited from parents are responsible for a small proportion of ovarian tumors. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two of the genes that increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. These genes also increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Other gene variations associated with increased risk of this cancer are those associated with Lynch syndrome and variations in the BRIP1, RAD51C, and RAD51D genes.
- Family history: Family members having similar types of cancer.
- Obesity or being overweight: Obesity increases your risk.
- Hormone replacement therapy after menopause: The risk may increase if hormone replacement therapy is used to treat the symptoms and signs of menopause.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis involves the growth of tissue outside the uterus that resembles the tissue lining the inside of the uterus. It is often uncomfortable.
- The age at which menstruation began and ended: early menstruation, later onset of menopause, or both can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
- Never having had a baby: If a woman has never had a baby, she may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
There may be ways to reduce your risk:
Consider using birth control pills: Consult doctor about if oral contraceptives, sometimes known as birth control pills, are good to use. The risk is lower when birth control tablets are used.
Talk to doctor about risk factors: Inform doctor in case have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. A doctor can better diagnose the risk of developing cancer.
The treatment involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Additional therapies are useful in certain situations:
- Radiation Therapy: This therapy uses a high energy beam to target cancer and destroy it. They range from X-rays to high energy Protons. Radiation therapy is used before surgery or after surgery in case of advanced cancers.
- Chemotherapy: This therapy utilizes the drugs or medicines which target the cancer cells directly. Chemotherapy is systemic in nature and surgery, or radiotherapy are local.
- Targeted Therapy: A form of cancer treatment known as targeted therapy goes after the proteins that regulate how cancer cells proliferate, divide, and disseminate. It serves as the basis for precision medicine. Researchers are better able to develop cancer treatments that target these proteins as they gain knowledge about the DNA alterations and proteins that fuel cancer.
- Hormone Therapy: Also known as Endocrine therapy, this therapy slows or stops the growth of cancer that depends on hormones to thrive.
- Immunotherapy: This therapy utilizes the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Our body has its own system to fight cancer cells, but it doesn’t do as cancer cells hide from them chemically. These drugs interfere with those processes and makes our immune system fight it.
- Supportive (Palliative Care)