Ovarian Cancer – Meaning, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | Comprehensive Guide

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Ovarian Cancer – Meaning, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | Comprehensive Guide

Numerous inquiries have been raised regarding ovarian cancer. In this blog, we will thoroughly cover all aspects related to it, such as its definition, symptoms, causes, measures for prevention, factors that increase the risk, and available treatments. To obtain further insight into ovarian cancer, we encourage you to read.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth within the ovaries. These cells proliferate rapidly and can potentially infiltrate and harm healthy bodily tissues.

The female reproductive system comprises two almond-sized ovaries on either side of the uterus. These ovaries play a crucial role in producing eggs (ova) and estrogen and progesterone hormones.

Typically, the treatment for ovarian cancer involves a combination of surgical procedures and chemotherapy.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms may not be readily apparent during the early stages of ovarian cancer. However, signs and symptoms are more likely to emerge as the disease progresses.

Here is a list of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  1. Swelling or bloating sensation in the abdominal area
  2. The rapid feeling of fullness during meals
  3. Unintentional weight loss
  4. Pelvic discomfort or pain
  5. Fatigue and general lack of energy
  6. Back pain
  7. Alterations in bowel movements, such as constipation

8. Increased frequency of urination

When to See a Doctor

It is highly recommended to promptly seek medical attention upon recognizing any signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

The subsequent classifications of ovarian cancer:

1. Epithelial ovarian cancer

The most prevalent form of ovarian cancer is this particular type, which encompasses various subtypes, such as serous carcinoma and mucinous carcinoma.

2. Stromal tumours

Compared to other types of ovarian cancers, these uncommon tumours are typically detected at an earlier stage of diagnosis.

3. Germ cell tumours

These rare forms of ovarian cancer tend to manifest at a younger age.

Ovarian Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of ovarian cancer remains uncertain, although medical professionals have identified several factors that can elevate the risk of developing this disease.

Here are some factors that can heighten the risk of ovarian cancer:

1. Older age

The likelihood of developing ovarian cancer rises with advancing age, and it is predominantly diagnosed in older individuals.

2. Inherited gene changes

A minority of ovarian cancers result from inherited gene mutations from parents. Specific genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase susceptibility to ovarian cancer. These genes are also associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer.

3. Family history of ovarian cancer

  Having close relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer can raise your chances of developing the disease.

4. obesity

Having excess weight or being obese amplifies the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

5. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy

Using hormone replacement therapy to manage symptoms related to menopause can potentially elevate the risk of ovarian cancer.

6. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a frequently distressing condition characterized by tissue growth similar to the lining of the uterus outside the uterus.

7. early start and end of menstruation 

Initiating menstruation at a young age, experiencing menopause at a later stage, or both circumstances combined can potentially heighten the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

8. Never having been pregnant

Not having a pregnancy history can be associated with an elevated risk of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Prevention

While there is no definitive method for preventing ovarian cancer, certain measures can help lower the risk factors associated with the disease.

1. Taking birth control pills

Consulting with your doctor about the suitability of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) is recommended. Taking birth control pills can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer. However, it is important to acknowledge that these medications carry potential risks.

Therefore, it is essential to thoroughly discuss with your doctor whether the benefits outweigh the risks based on your circumstances.

2. Talk about your risk factors with your doctor

If you have a familial background of breast and ovarian cancers, discussing this matter with your doctor is crucial. Your doctor can evaluate the implications of this on your risk of developing cancer. They may recommend a referral to a genetic counsellor to assist you in deciding whether genetic testing is appropriate.

If a gene mutation associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer is detected, you may consider surgical removal of the ovaries as a preventive measure against cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

When routine screening or symptoms indicate a possible presence of ovarian cancer, medical professionals usually begin by inquiring about the individual’s personal and family medical history. They will then proceed with a pelvic examination and conduct additional tests, including the following:

1. Blood tests

These tests aim to assess the levels of a specific marker known as CA-125.2, which can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.

2. Imaging tests

Examples of such tests include transvaginal ultrasound, MRI scan, or CT scan. These imaging techniques can provide detailed information about the ovaries and help detect and evaluate ovarian cancer.

3. Laparoscopy

A healthcare provider will perform a laparoscopy, wherein a thin tube equipped with a camera is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen. This allows for visualization of the ovaries, and if necessary, a tissue sample may be obtained for further examination through a biopsy.

4. Biopsy

Histopathology, which involves microscopic tissue sample analysis, is employed in this process. It is only through a biopsy that a definitive diagnosis of cancer can be made. A healthcare professional may conduct a biopsy as part of the initial assessment or after the surgical removal of a tumour.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

The choice of treatment for ovarian cancer is influenced by several factors, including the cancer type, stage, and grade, the individual’s age and overall health, personal preferences, and the availability and affordability of treatments. The following are potential treatment options:

1. Surgery

The treatment selection will be determined by the specific type of cancer and the extent of its spread. Surgical interventions can include a hysterectomy (uterus removal), one or both ovaries and the extraction of affected lymph nodes. The doctor will discuss with the individual to determine the most suitable treatment options.

2. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy medications are designed to target and eliminate cancer cells. These drugs affect the entire body when taken orally or administered through injections or infusions.

Another approach is intraperitoneal chemotherapy, where a tube delivers the medication directly to the area affected by cancer within the body. Chemotherapy can have significant side effects, particularly when it impacts the entire body.

3. Targeted therapy

Certain treatments focus on targeting specific cells that facilitate the growth of cancer. Examples of such treatments include monoclonal antibody therapy and angiogenesis inhibitors. Targeted therapy minimises adverse effects by targeting particular cellular functions in cancer progression.

4. Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy employs X-rays to destroy cancer cells. One method involves the introduction of a radioactive liquid into the peritoneum, which can benefit individuals with advanced ovarian cancer.

5. Immunotherapy (biotherapy)

Immunotherapy endeavours to enhance the immune system’s capacity to combat cancer within the body. Vaccine therapy, as a form of immunotherapy, entails the injection of substances that specifically target and eliminate tumours. This approach may offer potential benefits to individuals with advanced ovarian cancer.

 

Jael Okwuchukwu
Jael Okwuchukwu
I am Okwuchukwu Jael, a writer, educator, and musician from Enugu State. Teaching, both academic and musical, is a passion of mine, and I specialize as a Western pianist. Currently, I am employed as a blogger at Writer's King LTD, combining my love for writing and desire to share knowledge with a broader audience.

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