Many women aren’t aware that ovarian cancer is also known as the Silent Killer because generally no visible symptoms indicate the presence of this cancer and the symptoms surface only during the final stages. This cancer has known to affect as many as over 20K women across the world every year and due to the lack of visible symptoms indicating the cancer, it makes this cancer even scarier.
CAUSES AND RISKS
The causes of this cancer are not clear as yet but family history is one of the risk factors and the women having a family member or relative with ovarian cancer or breast cancer are definitely at a higher risk of the same. Age can also be termed as one of the risk factors because most women get it after 60 -63 years. Also, the women who have had one or more pregnancies before the age of 26 are at a lower risk. The risk is lower if the number of pregnancies is higher. Even using contraceptives frequently tends to lower the risk of ovarian cancer. As per doctors there is this contraceptive hormone called DMPA or Depo pro-vera CI that if injected of more than 3 years, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer even further. Women who make use of infertility treatment drugs over a period of one year are also known to have a high risk of getting ovarian cancer. Other risk factors include obesity, hormone therapy and gynecologic surgery as in surgery of reproductive organs and getting endometriosis at the age of 30 years.
DIAGNOSIS AND STAGES
The doctor on examination will ask for some tests that include blood test, a CT scan or MRI as well as Laparoscopy, biopsy, abdominal fluid aspiration test or colonoscopy for that matter.
As per the American Cancer society ovarian cancer has four stages
Stage 1 – This is the preliminary stage of ovarian cancer where only the ovary or the ovaries are affected.
Stage 2 – This is the secondary stage where the cancer is out of the ovaries and spread around the areas like fallopian tubes, uterus, rectum or the bladder.
Stage 3 – This is a later stage of cancer where the cancer affects the lymph nodes, abdominal lining or even the back of the abdomen.
Stage 4 – The last stage of cancer where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside the peritoneal cavity viz. abdomen or pelvis upto the liver, fluid around the lungs or the spleen.
The initial symptoms of ovarian cancer are easy to miss because they are very much similar to premenstrual syndrome. So, you have to be alert and if you find any of the below mentioned symptoms that persist for a long time then good idea is to go for checkup.
Recurring Abdominal Pain
If you have been experiencing stomach ache for a long time even if you don’t have your monthly cycles then its time you get it tested.
Appetite loss and Nausea
When ovarian cancer starts spreading around, it affects the bowel system and causes nausea. If you feel you have been experiencing and loss in your appetite or feeling full sooner than ever, check it out.
Bloating and Constipation
When a tumor is growing inside you even when you do not eat much you feel fuller and bloated. It can also affect your bowel movement leading to regular constipation issues.
Irregular monthly cycles
A tumor in the ovary will cause your monthly period to become irregular or sorts. So, if you haven’t been experiencing any irregularity in your monthly periods earlier but only lately for a while, good idea to meet up with your doctor.
If you have been making frequent trips to the bathroom for peeing then this could be the sign. Do not ignore and visit your doctor.
The treatment is based on the diagnosis of the stage of the cancer and includes procedures like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy as well as hormonal therapy. One or more treatments in combination are usually used depending upon the stage of the cancer.
The extent of surgery is also based on the stage and includes removal of ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus as well the affected surrounding tissues. Then there is de-bulking surgery and lymph node dissections also which is done to reduce the cancerous tissues if the cancer is spread beyond the pelvic region and removal of lymph nodes near the aorta respectively.
Chemotherapy is generally done post-surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells. A medication known as cytotoxic medication poisonous drugs to the cells in-order to prevent growth and division. This is a recurring process based on the cancer growth. Targeted Chemotherapy is another treatment that involves target specific function or pathways of cancer cells. Another therapy that is used as a part to treatment is Hormone therapy. It is done to cut the supply of estrogen from the cancer cells in order to slow their growth. Radiation therapy is also used for treatment of cancer and is generally used in advanced form of cancer.
As the stage increases the survival rate decreases. While for Stage I there is a 90% chance of survival, for stage IV, the chance is 17%.
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*Sourced from the Internet