Ovarian cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of ovarian cells, the two glands involved in sexual reproduction and women’s health. Are necessary Ovarian cancer affects an estimated 78 women in the United States. (1)
In female anatomy, an ovum is produced on the left side of the uterus and an egg (ovum) is produced on the right side, and the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
If a woman is fertile, the eggs are released from her womb into the fallopian tubes, which act as a pathway to the uterus.
Recent research, including a study published in the journal Nature Communications in October 2017, suggests that for many women, ovarian cancer is caused by the fallopian tubes. This important finding could point to new strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment. (2)
Ovarian Cancer Is Relatively Rare but Poses an Outsized Threat
The number of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer has dropped significantly in the last 20 years.
A report published in May 2018 by the American Cancer Society states that rates fell by 29% between 1985 and 2014, and by 33% between 1976 and 2015. (3)
Today, an estimated 22,240 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and about 14,000 die.
Ovarian cancer accounts for only 2.5% of all cancers diagnosed in women, making it relatively rare, yet it is responsible for 5% of all cancer-related deaths in women. (4)
The disease poses an external threat because it is detected only when it is transferred from the ovary to other parts of the body.
Ovarian cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or is diagnosed in 8 out of 10 women after metastasizing to other organs or tissues.
Usually, the later ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the more difficult it is to treat.
The five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer is about 92 percent, while the five-year relative survival rate for all stages is only 47 percent. (4)
There Are Different Types of Ovarian Tumors
The ovary consists of three types of cells, each of which has the potential to be lethal.
Epithelial ovarian tumors These are by far the most common type of ovarian tumor and are most likely to be malignant. They are made from cells that surround the outer surface of the ovaries.
These tumors can be benign (non-serious), borderline (less lethal potential), or malignant.
The latter group, also called carcinomas, occurs in between 85 and 90% of all ovarian cancers.
Ovarian germ cell tumors develop in the ovary and are usually benign. This category includes a type called dermoid cyst.
Less than 2% of all malignant ovarian cancers.
Ovarian stromal tumors grow in these structural tissue cells that hold the ovaries together and produce estrogen and progesterone.
Causes and Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer
Medical experts do not know why some women get ovarian cancer and others do not, or why some ovarian cells get cancer when others do not.
Nevertheless, scientists have identified several risk factors for the risk of cervical cancer. Some have very little effect, while others are very important. (5)
Your risk increases as you age, most ovarian cancers occur after menopause.
Being overweight or obesity research has linked obesity to ovarian cancer, although not necessarily the most deadly type.
Pregnancy After 35, having your first full-term pregnancy after the age of 35, or never having a baby for a long time, increases your risk of ovarian cancer.
The use of fertility treatments Some studies suggest a link between in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment and borderline ovarian tumors, although there is conflicting evidence.
Menopause Hormone Therapy Hormone therapy, especially estrogen alone (without progesterone) for many years, has been associated with an increased risk.
Family history A family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer increases your risk.
Genetic inheritance Some of the clearest and most serious risks are inherited mutations in the genes that pass through one’s family. It makes up 5 to 10 percent of ovarian cancers and is caused primarily by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Smoking also does not show that it increases the risk of ovarian cervical cancer, but it is associated with an increase in an abnormal type of epithelial tumor called a myosin carcinoma.
Are There Ways to Lower the Risk for Ovarian Cancer?
Scientists are looking for ways to reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
So far, they have identified two safety factors:
Pregnant and lactating women who become pregnant before the age of 26 and have a full term have a lower risk, after which the risk is further reduced by the full term of each pregnancy. Breastfeeding also has an effect, perhaps because it prevents ovulation. The risk of cell mutation, which can lead to cancer, increases as you ovulate. (6.7)
Birth control women who have used oral contraceptives have a lower risk. So are women who have had tubal ligation (whose fallopian tubes were tied) or have been using an intrauterine device (IUD) for a while. Women who have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) also reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by one-third. (5)
Genetic Testing and What It Means for Ovarian Cancer
Genetic testing convinces women that they are at higher risk for ovarian cancer and can confirm whether they have inherited mutations (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2). Which makes them particularly vulnerable.
A genetic counselor can talk about the pros and cons of testing and put any possible results into context before arranging a laboratory analysis of DNA from a saliva or blood sample.
Women who ignore genetic advice can also take cheap genetic tests at home. Yet when these experiments are more accessible, explaining their results becomes even more complicated without the help of an expert who understands what the results are and what they don’t mean and can offer informed advice on what to do next.
Learn more about genetic testing and ovarian cancer
Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is particularly deadly because some of its early symptoms are vague and simple, and ignoring or blaming it is a very dangerous health condition. Symptoms often do not appear until the cancer has spread and is difficult to treat.
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Difficulty eating or feeling fast
Urinary incontinence – abnormal urgency or frequency (8)
Ovarian cancer can cause fatigue, stomach upset, back pain, pain during sex, constipation, menstrual changes, and weight loss, as well as abdominal swelling.
If any of these symptoms are permanent and unusual for you, it is important to talk to your doctor. The American Cancer Society recommends that women see a doctor as soon as possible if they experience any of these symptoms more than 12 times a month.
Treatment and Medication Options for Ovarian Cancer
Treatment of ovarian cancer almost always begins with surgery. Most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have surgery to remove the tumor, or at least as much as possible.
If the cancer is diagnosed early (as is the case for only 2 out of 10 women), the operation may be limited to removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, a procedure called a bilateral salpango oruroctomy, as well as the baby. Dani (hysterectomy)). Depending on the cancer and stage, some women who want to maintain their fertility may have an ovary and fallopian tube, and their own uterus.
The spread of cancer may require more extensive surgery, assuming the patient is healthy enough to fight it.
Surgery is essential to keep cancer at bay – determining how advanced it is to control and diagnose the best treatment.
After surgery, many patients can be treated with multiple doses of chemotherapy, which use cancer-killing drugs (usually in combination). Aside from early-stage cancer, chemotherapy is almost always part of the treatment plan.
Doctors for modern ovarian cancer can also turn to targeted therapy. Such next-generation drugs work by controlling the specific characteristics of cancer cells, disrupting their internal functions and causing their death, while leaving healthy cells.
For example, the targeted drug Austin (bioasisomab) attacks cancer by targeting proteins in malignant cells that enable them to form new blood vessels that they need to grow.