Ovarian cancer is when cells in the ovary multiply uncontrollably and form a tumour. If left untreated, it can result in metastatic ovarian cancer. It is easy to overlook the early signs of ovarian cancer because they are similar to other common illnesses but if caught early, ovarian cancer can be detected and treated at the earlier stages.
- abdominal bloating, pressure and pain
- difficulty eating
- an increase in urination
- an increased urge to urinate
- back pain
- menstrual irregularities
- painful intercourse
- Increased age
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Genetic mutations of genes associated with ovarian cancer
- Previous history of breast, uterine or colon cancer
- Certain fertility drugs or drugs for hormone therapies
- Stage 1A: The cancer is limited to one ovary.
- Stage 1B: The cancer is in both ovaries.
- Stage 1C: There are also cancer cells on the outside of the ovary.
- Stage 2A: The cancer has spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes.
- Stage 2B: The cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum.
- Stage 3A: The cancer has spread microscopically beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
- Stage 3B: The cancer cells have spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and are visible to naked eye but measure less than 2 cm.
- Stage 3C: Deposits of cancer at least 3/4 of an inch are seen on the abdomen or outside the spleen or liver.
- Stage 4A: The cancerous cells have metastasised to the fluid around the lungs.
- Stage 4B: The most advanced stage, the cells have reached inside the spleen or liver or even other distant organs like the skin or brain.
The doctor can perform a pelvic exam to discover irregularities. As the tumour grows, it presses against the bladder and rectum. This can be spotted through a rectovaginal pelvic examination.
The following tests may also be suggested:
- Transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS)
- Abdominal and pelvic CT scan
- Blood test to measure cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) levels
The treatment depends on how far the cancer has spread. Surgery is the main treatment for ovarian cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumour, but often, it might require the complete removal of the uterus and even ovaries and fallopian tubes, nearby lymph nodes and other pelvic tissue. This is often coupled with chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targetted therapy.
The following factors can help lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer:
- taking oral birth control pills
- surgical procedures on your reproductive organs (like a tubal ligation or hysterectomy)