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Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that grows and develops in the ovaries, the small glands that are on either side of the uterus. Ssee an explanation of the symptoms, causes, and how to treat it below.

Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the ovaries, also known as the ovaries. This cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the ovaries or fallopian tubes grow and develop out of control. This condition often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen.

The female reproductive system has two ovaries which are on the right and left sides of the uterus with the size of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Early stage ovarian cancer rarely causes symptoms. However, when entering an advanced stage, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be recognized.

The following are some of the symptoms that can occur, including:

  • Stomach bloating or swelling.
  • Quickly feel full when eating.
  • Weight loss.
  • Discomfort in the pelvis.
  • Change in bowel habits.
  • Constipation.
  • Frequent urination.

When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?

See a doctor as soon as possible if you have any worrying features of ovarian cancer. In addition, if you have a family history of this condition or breast cancer, you should consult with your doctor about the possible risks.

Ovarian Cancer Causes

Until now there is no definite explanation about the cause of this condition. Even so doctors have identified factors that can increase the risk of this disease.

In general, cancer begins when a cell develops an error (mutation) in its DNA. Mutations tell cells to grow and develop rapidly, forming masses (tumors) of abnormal cells.

Abnormal cells can invade nearby tissue and spread elsewhere in the body or are called metastasized.

Also Read: Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Risk Factors

The following are some conditions that can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, including:

  • Elderly. Ovarian cancer can occur at any age, but it is most common in women ages 50 to 60.
  • Inherited gene mutations. A small proportion of ovarian cancers are caused by gene mutations that are inherited from parents. Genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 ((BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2).
  • Family history. Someone with two or more siblings who have ovarian cancer, the risk of developing this disease will be even greater.
  • Hormone therapy. Estrogen hormone replacement therapy, especially with long-term use and in large doses.
  • Age of start and end of menstruation. Starting to experience menstruation at an early age or menopause occurring at an older age, can increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Basically, the cells in which the cancer develops can determine which type of ovarian cancer you have. Types of ovarian cancer include:

These tumors start in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors.

These tumors start in ovarian tissue that contains hormone-producing cells. These tumors are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage than other ovarian tumors. About 7 percent of ovarian tumors are stromal.

These tumors usually develop in the egg-producing cells. This rare ovarian cancer tends to occur in younger women.

Also Read: Tumors: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

The following are tests and procedures used to diagnose ovarian cancer, including:

During a pelvic exam, the doctor will insert a gloved finger into the vagina, and simultaneously press a hand against the abdomen to feel (grope) the pelvic area. In addition, the doctor can also examine the external cervix.

Imaging tests such as an ultrasound (USG) or computerized tomography scan (CT scan) of the abdomen and pelvis can help determine the size, shape, and structure of the ovaries.

Blood tests may include organ function tests so that they can help determine overall health.

The doctor may also test the blood for tumor markers that indicate ovarian cancer. For example, the CA125 (cancer antigen 125) test can detect a protein that is commonly found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells.

Even so, these tests can’t tell your doctor whether you have cancer, but they can provide clues about the diagnosis and prognosis.

Sometimes doctors can’t confirm a diagnosis until you have surgery to remove the ovaries and test them for signs of cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Stage

After the diagnosis says that you have ovarian cancer, the next step is that the doctor will use the information from the test to determine the stage of the cancer.

The stage of the cancer is determined based on how far the cancer has spread. There are four stages and each stage has sub-stages. Here’s the explanation:

Stage I

Stage I ovarian cancer has three sub-stages:

  • Stage 1A: Cancer limited or localized to one ovary.
  • Stage 1B: Cancer in both ovaries.
  • Stage 1C: There are also cancer cells on the outside of the ovaries.

Stage II

In stage II, the tumor has spread to the pelvic structures. This condition has two sub-stages:

  • Stage 2A: The cancer has spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes.
  • Stage 2B: Cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum.

Stage III

Stage III ovarian cancer has three sub-stages:

  • Stage 3A: The cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the stomach and lymph nodes in the abdomen.
  • Stage 3B: The cancer cells are outside the spleen or liver.
  • Stage 3C: Cancer measuring at least 1.9 cm is seen in the stomach or outside the spleen. However, the cancer was not in the spleen or liver.

Stage IV

In stage IV, the tumor has metastasized or spread beyond the pelvis, stomach, and lymph nodes to the liver or lungs. Stage IV itself has two sub-stages:

  • Stage 4A: Cancer cells are in the fluid around the lungs.
  • Stage 4B: The most advanced stage, the cells have reached the inside of the spleen or liver or even other distant organs such as the skin or brain.

Also Read: Causes of Menopausal Women Vulnerable to Endometrial Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Ovarian cancer treatment usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. In addition, treatment will depend on many factors, such as jtype, stage, cancer rate, age, personal preference, and accessibility.

Several treatment options that can be done, including:

The choice will depend on the type of cancer and how far it has spread. Surgical options include hysterectomy, removal of one or both ovaries, and removal of affected lymph nodes. The doctor will discuss the options according to the patient’s condition.

If using oral chemotherapy drugs, injections or infusions, this treatment can affect the body’s condition.

Another option is intraperitoneal chemotherapy. In this case, a channel delivers the drug directly to the area of ​​the body affected by the cancer. Chemotherapy can have widespread side effects, especially if it affects the whole body.

Some treatments target specific cells that help promote cancer growth. Examples include therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and angiogenesis inhibitors. Targeted therapy aims to limit side effects by targeting specific functions.

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses X-rays to kill cancer cells. One way to do this is to inject a radioactive fluid into the peritoneum. This therapy may help people with advanced ovarian cancer.

This technique aims to increase the ability of the immune system against cancer. Vaccine therapy used can fight tumors and help people with advanced ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Complications

Most people with this cancer have few complications. However, it is important to be aware of the possibility and seek medical attention if you have any symptoms. Complications usually occur when cancer spreads to the stomach and lungs.

Here are some complications of ovarian cancer that may occur, including:

  • Intestinal obstruction.
  • Bowel perforation.
  • Urinary blockage or urinary retention.
  • Pleural effusion.
  • Bone pain.

Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Until now there is no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer. However, there are several ways that might reduce the risk of this disease, including:

  • Consider taking birth control pills

Ask your doctor if birth control pills are right for you. Women who use oral contraceptives may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer. However, oral contraceptives do have risks, so discuss whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

  • Discuss Risk Factors with Your Doctor

If you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, consult this condition with your doctor. Doctors can determine how much the risk of cancer occurs. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor to help decide if genetic testing might be the right step.

If you are found to have a gene mutation that increases your risk of ovarian cancer, you may consider surgery to remove the ovaries to prevent cancer.

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  4. Fayed, Lisa. 2022. Ovarian Cancer Symptoms. (Accessed March 1, 2023)
  5. Pietrangelo, Ann. 2017. What are the Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer and How Do You Detect Them?. (Accessed December 27, 2019).

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