Ovarian cancer involves cancer cells that develop within the ovaries, the reproductive glands that produce eggs that are fertilized by sperm for reproduction, as well as the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer is a rare type of cancer and is often not detected until it has spread to other areas of the body. When caught early, ovarian cancer can usually be cured with no major complications.
Types of Tumors
There are three different types of tissue in the ovaries, and each type can be affected by a different kind of cancer. The epithelial cells cover the ovary and are most commonly affected by ovarian cancer. Other types of ovarian cells include germ cells, which start from the cells that produce the eggs, and stromal cells, which produce estrogen and progesterone. Most tumors that grow in the ovaries are benign and can be successfully treated, but some may be malignant and can spread to other parts of the body, requiring more complicated treatment.
While the cause of ovarian cancer is not specifically known, some patients are at a higher risk of developing this disease over others. Some of these risk factors may include a personal or family history of cancer, being over the age of 55, having never been pregnant and taking menopausal hormone therapy. Women who think they may be at risk for ovarian cancer should speak to their doctor.
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam, after a lump shows up on an ultrasound image. If a lump is detected, your doctor will perform a biopsy to test the lump and determine whether or not it is cancerous.
Patients with ovarian cancer usually do not experience any symptoms from the disease, especially in the early stages.As the cancer grows, symptoms may include pain or pressure in the abdomen or pelvis, nausea, constipation, diarrhea or fatigue. Some patients may also experience shortness of breath and frequent urination.
Treatment for ovarian cancer is usually done through surgery to remove the tumor, often by removing the entire ovary. This procedure is called an oophorectomy, and may be combined with other procedures to also remove the uterus and fallopian tubes. Other treatment options for ovarian cancer may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill all remaining cancer cells and ensure that the disease has been thoroughly removed from the body.
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