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Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms, Signs, Treatment & Types

Ovarian Cancer is an uncommon cancer that affects quite a handful of women but, yet it is very difficult to detect. This is a cancer that mostly begins in the ovaries by the production of abnormally functional eggs. Normally, a woman has one pair of ovaries, one on both sides of the uterus.

The function of the ovaries is to produce eggs and also to produce the female reproductive hormones that control ovulation and the entire menstrual cycle (estrogen and progesterone). These eggs produced by the ovary have the shape of an almond and any other egg produced not looking like an almond is an abnormality.

Majority of the time, you will hardly detect ovarian cancer in its own until it has spread all over the abdomen and pelvis. This is the time that most people discover and detect that they have ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer occurs when cells divide and multiply abnormally and in a random unorganized way. After these abnormal formation, these abnormally formed eggs will cluster together forming a tumor and can start to spread around the body if they are not quickly treated.

When these cancer starts to spread around most especially to the abdomen and pelvis, it can be said that the cancer has metastasized, and this kind of cancer is called a metastatic ovarian cancer. Once these cancer starts to spread, it can become one of the most deadly types of cancer because it moves very fast if not caught early.

Ovarian Cancer is hardly seen in women under the age of 40. Women at 40 or above have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. It has been seen that most women who present with ovarian cancer have attained menopause or are way past menopause.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it has shown that a risk factor for women to get ovarian cancer is when they get to middle age (around 35 – 40 years). There are three distinct categories of ovarian cancer. They are categorized based on where they start to form, and they include:

Epithelial lining tumors

This accounts for majority of the amount of ovarian cancers that occurs to women. Normally, ovaries have cells lining the outer layer. Epithelial lining tumors occur when cells begin to grow abnormally in the outer lining.

They grow so big so much so that they cause tumors to begin to form. The risk of developing this kind of cancer increases as the woman approaches 5oyears of age.

Germ Cell tumor

These types of tumors are usually not seen in most women. In order words, very few amount of women present with this kind of tumor. This tumor starts in the cell that produces the egg itself and they can as well spread fast.

Stromal tumors or sex chord stromal tumors

These tumors begin in the cells that help in the production of the female reproductive hormones (estrogen and progesterone). They are usually diagnosed early due to the fact that there will be an abnormality in the hormonal levels of the female which can lead to early diagnosis.

And once it can be diagnosed early, there is a greater chance of survival. There are some facts that one must know about ovarian cancer and they include:

  1. The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known yet. Though most of the times, researchers have associated ovarian cancer with breast cancer. They say that the genes that cause breast cancer is also a predisposition to one having ovarian cancer.
  2. Ovarian Cancer is very hereditary. It is mostly associated with genes. So, if your mother or sister have had ovarian cancer or has ovarian cancer, the woman is so much predisposed and very likely to get ovarian cancer.
  3. Though ovarian cancer is hereditary, there are risk factors that could still put other women at risk who don’t have the heredity gene and these risk factors include
  • Age: Women who have attained menopause and are older than 40 are at a greater risk of getting ovarian cancer.
  • The use of contraceptives or birth control: Women who have at a point in their lives used contraceptives and birth control are at a lower risk of getting ovarian cancer but at higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Women who have had breast cancer at a higher risk of likewise having ovarian cancer. This is because most women who have breast cancer have been seen to have the same predispositions to ovarian cancer.
  • An obese woman who has her body mass index at more than 30 will also have increased chances of having ovarian cancer.
  • Women who constantly use fertility drugs to enhance their chances of giving birth are at a higher risk of getting ovarian cancer.
  • Women who are infertile and unable to give birth likewise stand a higher chance of getting ovarian cancer than women who have given birth.
  • Women who experience endometriosis have a higher chance of getting ovarian cancer than other women.
  • Women who have given birth have a reduced chance of getting ovarian cancer.
  1. Early detection will help you survive the cancer: when this cancer is detected early, this will increase the chances for survival.
  2. Ovarian Cancer is rarely diagnosed at its early stages. You will mostly diagnose it either at stage 3 or at stage 4.
  3. Smoking can increase your chances of having ovarian cancer.
  4. When one has a problem with his or her endocrine gland, it can lead to an enlarged ovary. This condition is known as polycystic ovary syndrome and this can as well lead to the production of enlarged abnormal eggs causing ovarian cancer.
  5. There are symptoms that can be used to detect ovarian cancer early and they include increased abdominal size, severe pain in the abdomen, severe bloating and frequent urination. Though these symptoms can mimic other ailments but when you experience these symptoms, one should visit the doctor.
  6. There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer, but they are all categorized into three based on their origin.

There are four stages of ovarian cancer that everyone must be aware of;

Stage 1: The cancer is locally placed (i.e. always found in the ovary). First it attacks one of the ovaries and then it will spread across through to the second ovary.

Stage 2: At this stage, the cancer has metastasized and spread to other pelvic songs. First from the uterus, and then to the fallopian tubes and then eventually into the pelvic organs such as the rectum and bladder.

Stage 3: At this stage, the cancer would have spread from the pelvic organs into the abdominal organs. The cancerous cells will then reach outside the liver and spleen and eventually surround the liver and spleen but won’t enter yet.

Stage 4: The tumor has spread through the lymph nodes to the liver and lungs. After a little while, these cells will then move and spread into the liver and the spleen. Treatment of the cancer depends largely on the stage the cancer was discovered. This kind of cancer is considered to be a silent killer simply because once a person has it, it usually is difficult or detect. Regular Checkup is required for women who are within the risk factors.

Ensure your doctor today for a proper Checkup today.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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