Ovarian Cancer

Definition of Ovarian Cancer

Ovaries are a part of normal female reproductive system. Ovaries are meant to produce eggs, which then fuse with sperms to produce zygote. Any abnormal growth within ovary is called ovarian cancer and it is one of the most common cancer among women.

Ovarian cancer is of 4 main types:

  • Surface epithelial-stromal tumors.

  • Sex cord-stromal tumor.

  • Germ cell tumor.

  • Mixed tumors


Cause of Ovarian Cancer

Following are considered the most important causes of ovarian cancer:

  • Hormonal imbalance is perhaps the most important cause of ovarian cancer. Elevated level of estrogen usually triggers the formation of ovarian cancer.

  • Females with family history of this condition are also more likely to develop ovarian cancer at some point during their lifetime.

  • Mutations in BRCA gene are considered most important when it comes to ovarian cancer.

  • Low exposure to sunlight and decreased vitamin D might also be linked to the development of ovarian cancer.

  • Some studies have shown a link between milk consumption and ovarian cancer.

  • Exposure to asbestos is also important.

  • Eating a diet rich in fat might also trigger ovarian cancer.


Signs and Syptoms of Ovarian Cancer

The signs and symptoms of this condition vary from individual to individual and all depend on severity of disease. Some of the most important symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Bloating

  • Pelvic pain

  • Abdominal pain

  • Difficulty in urination

  • Back pain

  • Constipation

  • Malaise

  • Weight loss

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Irregular menstrual cycle

  • Ascites


Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

Important risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • Women that ovulate more during their lifetime are more prone to develop this condition later in their life.

  • Having a family history of this illness can put you more at risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer can be diagnosed by several methods. Following are the most important methods that can be used in its diagnosis.

  • Taking complete history of the patient is important due to two reasons. First, due to its tendency of running in families you need to know if the blood relatives of the patient have this condition. If the answer is positive then you might suspect ovarian cancer in that patient too. Second, the symptoms are also helpful in making diagnosis. The establishment of diagnosis on the basis of symptoms is difficult in early stages due to the non-specificity of symptoms.

  • General physical examination can also be done to check for any swelling of ovary due to accumulation of fluid or tumor mass.

  • Blood tests can be performed to check for certain tumor marker proteins that are specifically seen in ovarian cancer.

  • Imaging techniques like MRI and ultrasound can also be done to confirm preliminary diagnosis.

Prevention from Ovarian Cancer

Tubal ligation appears to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in women who carry the BRCA1 (but not BRCA2) gene. Also, the use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) for five years decreases the risk of ovarian cancer in later life by half.


Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

Following are the treatment options:

  • One option is surgery. This approach removes ovaries with or without fallopian tubes and uterus. This technique is usually most effective in the early stages.

  • In the case of malignant growth of tumor with minimal spread, surgery is supplemented with radiotherapy. This method makes use of high energy radiations to limit the growth of rapidly dividing cells.

  • When the tumor has spread to far off places and is beyond the scope of radiotherapy, the last resort is to go for chemotherapy and surgery. Chemotherapy makes use of certain drugs that kill all sorts of rapidly dividing cells, whether normal or cancerous. Although this method is effective but has got some severe side effects due to the damage caused to the normal body cells.