Ovarian Cancer – Symptoms, Types, and Treatment

The ovaries are almond-shaped, small body organs of women located on each side of the uterus. They are responsible for producing eggs.  But just like other parts of the body, even ovaries can get infected by cancer. Ovarian cancer can occur in different areas of the ovary.

Usually, this type of cancer begins in the germ of ovary, stromal, or epithelial cells. It is the germ cells that gets converted into eggs, while the stromal cells contribute to the substance of ovary. The epithelial cells form the outer covering of the ovary.

A large number of women across the world are being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and in half of the cases, it leads to death. Hence, it is essential to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage. For this, one must be aware of the symptoms and various types of ovarian cancer. In this post, we will discuss the signs and types of ovarian cancer. Additionally, we will list out some prominent treatment options.

Symptoms or Signs of Ovarian Cancer

At an early stage, ovarian cancer may not disclose any symptoms. In fact, for this reason, it is difficult to detect it at an early stage. However, if you experience some of the following symptoms then you must get a diagnosed done for the same.

  • Bloating often
  • Difficulty eating
  • Feeling of fullness quickly
  • Urgent and frequent need to urinate
  • Discomfort or pain in the pelvis or abdomen

Such symptoms can have a sudden onset. You will start feeling different from regular digestion. Additionally, you will experience menstrual discomfort, which lasts longer than usual.

The other signs of ovarian cancer are:

  • Having pain during intercourse
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Acne
  • Change in the menstrual cycle
  • Back pain that worsens over time

If these symptoms last longer than a few weeks then you must seek immediate medical attention.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is of various types.

 

1. Epithelial Carcinoma

This is the most common type of ovarian cancer that is found in around 85 to 90% of the women. This kind of cancer does not show any symptoms in the early stages. Most of the people are diagnosed with it in their advanced stage.

 

2. Germ Cell Cancer

 

This is another kind of cancer of the ovary. It illustrates various kinds of cancer which develop from the cells which create eggs. It mainly occurs in adolescents and young women.

This kind of cancer can be large and tend to develop quickly. In certain cases, this cancer produces HCG or human chorionic gonadotropin, and hence, can result in a false pregnancy confirmation.

 

Stromal Cell Cancer

 

This form of ovarian cancer develops from the ovaries cells. Such cells produce ovarian hormones including testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen.

This kind of cancer is rare and develops slowly. It secretes testosterone and estrogen. Excessive testosterone causes facial hair growth and leads to acne. Excessive estrogen leads to uterine bleeding and the symptoms resulting from it are quite noticeable.

For this reason, it is possible to diagnose stromal cancer at an early level. Individuals suffering from stromal cancer often possess a good outlook as it is possible to manage this cancer with surgery.

 

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

The diagnosis process for ovarian cancer begins with a physical exam and the medical history of the patient. The physical exam includes an examination of the rectal and pelvis. One or multiple blood tests may be performed to diagnose this cancer.

Some of the common tests performed to diagnose ovarian cancer are:

 

1. Complete diagnosis of the blood count

 

 

  • Test for identifying cancer antigen 125 levels that is high if you are suffering from ovarian cancer
  • Test to identify HCG levels that are high if you have germ ovarian cancer
  • Test to identify testosterone, estrogen, and inhibin levels that are high in stromal cancer cell
  • Test to identify lactate dehydrogenase levels that are high in ovarian cancer
  • Tests to determine the function of the liver
  • Tests to determine kidney function and to know if cancer has obstructed the flow of urine or has spread to kidneys and bladder

 

 

2. Biopsy

 

The process of biopsy is necessary to determine whether the cancer is present or not. It is a surgical process, where a small tissue sample is obtained from the ovaries to identify cancer cells.

If there is some fluid present then the sample is analyzed for cancer cells.

 

3. Imaging Tests

 

In addition to this, numerous imaging tests are also performed to look for changes or alterations in the ovaries as well as other body organs. MRI, PET scan, and CT scan are some of the imaging tests performed.

 

4. Check for Metastasis

 

If you are suspected for ovarian cancer then there might be other tests performed to check the spread of cancer to other body parts. These tests are as follows:

  • An X-ray of the chest, which is performed to detect the spread of tumors into the lungs.
  • A barium enema to see whether the cancerous tumor has spread to the rectum or colon or not
  • An analysis of urine to check for infectious signs or blood in the urine

In most of the cases, the experts do not recommend regular cancer screenings. It is because they are subject to deliver false results.

Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

Your doctor will offer you treatment for ovarian cancer based on various factors such as the type of ovarian cancer, stage, and the possibilities to retain your ovaries.

Some of the common treatment options available for ovarian cancer are:

 

1. Surgery

 

A surgical process is done to confirm the diagnosis as well as identify the stage of cancer and potentially remove it.

During the surgical process, your surgeon tries to remove all cancerous cells. They may even perform the biopsy process to determine whether the cancer has spread to other body organs or not. The surgical process extent depends on whether you wish to have children in the future or not.

 

  • For Stage 1 Cancer

 

The surgical process for stage 1 cancer involves removal of the ovary with cancerous cells. It also involves the removal of fatty tissues that are linked to the abdominal organs.

It also involves the removal of pelvic and abdominal lymph nodes. In certain cases, biopsies of other tissues as well as accumulation of the fluid inside the abdomen are also tested.

 

  • For Advanced Stage Cancer

 

An extensive surgical process is performed for advanced stage cancer and when you don’t want to have kids. It involves complete removal of the areas infected with cancerous cells. It includes removal of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and both ovaries.

In addition to this, the omentum is also removed. A biopsy process is also performed to test other body organs for cancer.

 

2. Chemotherapy

 

The surgical process is further followed by chemotherapy. This process involves offering medication intravenously through the abdomen. It is also known as an intraperitoneal treatment.

The chemotherapy process may result in certain side effects like:

  • Hair loss
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sleeping Issues
  • Fatigue

Your doctor would perform essential medical procedures to remove cancer. However, you may need additional treatment to combat the related symptoms.

Cancer can put a strain on muscles, nearby organs, bones, and nerves. The bigger your cancer is the more intense pain it would result in.

3.  HIPEC Treatment

HIPEC or Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy is another treatment to rectify malignancies, which have occurred in or spread to the peritoneum, which is the membrane that covers the organs and abdominal walls.

In ovarian cancer, the HIPEC treatment works in the following way. The four catheters are integrated into the abdomen and an incision is temporarily closed around the tubes. Next, a machine is used that pumps high-dose of heat and chemotherapy solution into the abdominal cavity till the belly gets filled. The belly is then gently massaged by the surgeon so that the warm fluid reaches to every nook of the ovary. Once the process is completed, the solution is drained and the incision is then closed.

The HIPEC treatment is highly effective in killing the microscopic cancer cells that are hidden underneath. With the HIPEC, every cell and surface in the infected area is bathed in the powerful and anti-cancerous solution. The best part is that with this concentrated form of chemotherapy there are no long-term side effects like hair loss and nausea, which is the case with conventional chemo.

HIPEC treatment is an option for selected patients with ovarian cancer confined to the abdomen. It can increase the survival rate up to five years and can even result in complete recovery.

Prognosis for Ovarian Cancer

The prognosis for women identified with ovarian cancer depends on the extent of how advanced the cancer is and how well the patient is responding to the treatment. Usually, early stage 1 cancer offer a better prognosis as compared to the ovarian cancer of late stages.



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