Ovarian Cancer Awareness

ovarian-cancer-ribbonAlthough there is fewer than 200,000 cases per year, ovarian cancer is the cause for approximately 3% of cancers among women, but causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so what better time to share important information on it?

Southeast Women’s Center offers pertinent information you need to know about this gynecological cancer.

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, a part of the female reproductive system. Like other cancer, it can spread to other parts of the body, but can also be successfully treated, especially if it is found early enough.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

  • Frequent bloating or swelling of the abdominal area
  • Weight loss
  • Pain and/or discomfort in the stomach or pelvis
  • Feeling full easily, and/or trouble eating
  • Urination problems, such as the frequent urge or urinating more than usual
  • Change in bowel habits, such as constipation

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and they worry you, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors of ovarian cancer, including, but not limited to:

  • Family History
  • Age (most common from 50-60 years old)
  • Reproductive History
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Gynecologic Surgery
  • Fertility Drugs
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

For a more detailed list of risk factors, please visit cancer.org.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

There are 3 different types ovarian cancer. The type of cancer is determined by the type of cell said cancer begins.

Epithelial Tumors
Around 90% of ovarian cancer is due to epithelial tumors, which begin in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries.
Stromal Tumors
Usually diagnosed at an earlier stage than the others, stromal tumors begin in the ovarian tissue containing hormone-producing cells. Stromal tumors account for around 7% of ovarian tumors.
Germ Cell Tumors
The rarest of ovarian cancer, germ cell tumors tend to occur in younger women. They begin in the egg-producing cells.

Tests and Diagnosis

A pelvic examination is likely to be the first thing a doctor wants to do. The outer part of genitals will be looked at, and the uterus and ovaries will be checked out, as well. A visual examination using a speculum will also be used. Depending on the initial pelvic examination, the doctor may also recommend:

Imaging Tests. An ultrasound or CT scan of one’s abdomen and pelvis can help determine the shape, size, and structure of one’s ovaries.

Blood Test. A blood test can detect a specific protein, CA 125, which is found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.

Surgery. Minimally invasive or robotic surgery may be an option to remove a tissue sample and confirm diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

A doctor can help determine what stage one is in after surgery. Knowing the stage helps determine the prognosis and treatment options:

Stage I. Cancer is found in one or both ovaries.
Stage II. Cancer has spread to other parts of the pelvis.
Stage III. Cancer has spread to the abdomen.
Stage IV. Cancer is found outside the abdomen.

Without proper preventative care, it is common for ovarian cancer to go undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and belly. At such a late stage, it is more difficult to treat and can be fatal. That is why preventative care is so important. If you are concerned with any of the above, contact your doctor today.

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