Each year almost 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States. Even though it makes up only 3 percent of all the cancers that affect women, it is the eighth most common type of cancer and the fifth main cause that results in death.
According to the National Cancer Institute, new cases relating to ovarian cancer amount to almost 12.1 per 100,000 women on an annual basis, while the number of deaths related to ovarian cancer per year are 7.7 per 100,000 women. [1,2]
What Exactly Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a growth that begins in the ovaries which are situated on either side of your uterus. There are a number of benign or cancerous tumors that can appear in the ovaries. In case of benign tumors, part of the ovary can be taken out to stop any further growth. In case of cancerous tumors, more advanced forms of treatment are required to stop and treat the condition. (Also Read: Are You Aware Of These Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors?)
Routine screening for ovarian cancer is not yet recommended in the US but if you have a family history of the same or if your doctor has classified you as a high-risk patient, you may be asked to go in for diagnosis. Here are a few tests your doctor may suggest to find out any signs of ovarian cancer:
- A biopsy with the help of an incision made in the stomach
- A physical examination involving a pelvic exam and Pap test
- A device known as speculum may be inserted in your vagina to check for any abnormal growth
- A cancer antigen 125 test (a type of blood test) to measure the levels of protein that can help to determine whether there are any cancerous cells in your ovaries
- An ultrasound of the transvaginal and pelvic area to check for any lumps in the ovaries
- A CT scan or MRI of the abdominal or pelvic area to check if the cancerous growth has spread
- A minor surgery to test for tissue samples and fluids from your abdomen that can help determine the presence of cancerous growth
Understanding The Stages
Depending on your results, your doctor will determine whether or not you have any cancerous growths in your ovaries and if yes, what stage the cancer is in, which will also help decide the course of treatment that is required.
- Stage 1: When cancerous growth is present in one or both ovaries
- Stage 2: When cancerous growth has spread to the pelvic region
- Stage 3: When cancerous growth has spread to the abdominal region
- Stage 4: When cancerous growth is present outside the abdominal region
Your doctor will suggest a combination of surgery as well as chemotherapy to help treat ovarian cancer. In case of surgery, your doctor may suggest the following options:
- In its earliest stage, only one ovary and the attached fallopian tube may need to be removed.
- In case the cancer has spread, the doctor will most likely remove both the ovaries, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, the lymph nodes and fatty tissue from the abdomen where there is a high risk of the cancer spreading
In case of chemotherapy, which will help remove any remaining traces of the cancerous growths, your doctor may suggest the following options:
- Inject the chemotherapy drugs as IV treatment
- Inject the chemotherapy drugs in the cavity of the abdomen
- Trying both the above methods of injection
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1.SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Ovary Cancer. Site http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html (Accessed 15 Sep 2015)
2. Ovarian Cancer Statistics. Site http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/statistics/ (Accessed 15 Sep 2015)