Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

Spring News Desk
March 30, 2023

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

 

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects the ovaries, which are part of the female reproductive system.

The ovaries produce eggs and hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, which regulate the menstrual cycle. Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the ovaries begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a tumour.

There are different types of ovarian cancer, each with unique characteristics.

Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type, accounting for about 90% of cases. This type of cancer develops from the cells that cover the surface of the ovary.

Germ cell tumours and stromal tumours are less common types of ovarian cancer, which respectively arise from the cells that produce eggs and the connective tissue of the ovary.

Ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect in its early stages because its symptoms can be vague and similar to those of other conditions. It is therefore important to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with ovarian cancer in order to detect the disease early and improve the chances of successful treatment.

The Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

The exact causes of ovarian cancer are not known, but there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. These include a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, age (ovarian cancer is more common in women over the age of 50), having never been pregnant or having had difficulty getting pregnant, and certain genetic mutations such as brca1 and brca2.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be vague and non-specific, making it difficult to detect in its early stages. Some common symptoms include abdominal bloating or swelling, pelvic pain or pressure, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and frequent urination. These symptoms may be more pronounced with advanced-stage disease. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience persistent or unusual symptoms that concern you.

Early detection of ovarian cancer is critical for successful treatment. Women who are at high risk for ovarian cancer may benefit from regular screening, such as transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test called ca-125. However, these tests are not recommended for women at average risk.

Discussing the risk factors

Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the patient's age and overall health, and the presence of certain genetic mutations.

Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used.

Surgery is often the first step in treating ovarian cancer, with the goal of removing as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. Depending on the extent of the disease, a surgeon may perform a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes), and removal of any visible tumours. In some cases, lymph nodes may also be removed.

Chemotherapy is a common treatment for ovarian cancer and involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given intravenously (through a vein) or directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneal chemotherapy). The type and duration of chemotherapy will depend on the stage of the cancer and the patient's overall health.

Targeted therapy is a newer type of treatment that uses drugs to specifically target cancer cells, while minimising damage to healthy cells. Targeted therapy is often used in combination with chemotherapy.

Clinical trials may also be an option for some women with ovarian cancer. Clinical trials can provide access to new treatments that may be more effective than current standard treatments.

Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

The treatment options for ovarian cancer depend on the stage and type of cancer. The most common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Surgery is the main treatment for ovarian cancer and aims to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. The extent of the surgery depends on the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given before or after surgery and can be administered intravenously or directly into the abdomen.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used in combination with surgery and chemotherapy or alone for advanced stage ovarian cancer.

Clinical trials are also available for those with ovarian cancer, offering the opportunity to receive innovative and experimental treatments.

It is important to discuss all treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

We need to raise awareness

Ovarian cancer is a serious disease that affects thousands of women each year.

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to seek medical attention if you experience any of them. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving survival rates.

During ovarian cancer month and throughout the year, it is important to raise awareness about this disease and the importance of regular check-ups and screenings. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, know that there are treatment options available and support networks to help navigate the journey. Don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for more information and guidance.

Here are some helpful links for further information:

Ovarian Cancer Action:
Target Ovarian Cancer:
Cancer Reseach UK:
Macmillan Cancer Support:
NHS:

These websites offer information about ovarian cancer, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and support networks. They also provide resources for patients and their families, including helplines, forums, and information about clinical trials.

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