The ovaries are two almond-sized organs below the abdomen that produce egg cells, progesterone and estrogen. Cancer can originate from the ovaries and spread its way throughout the body. The tumors grow very slowly such that symptoms may not appear until the late stages of the illness. These can include swelling in the abdomen, cramps at the back, and pain around the pelvis. Patients are also susceptible to bloating and nausea. Some individuals may notice vaginal bleeding that is different from their regular period. Ovarian cancer is responsible for 3% of the cancers experienced by women.
Types of Ovarian Cancer
The tumors can begin growing at several places. The masses could form around the outside covering of the ovaries. This happens in many of the cases and the growths are called epithelial tumors. Sometimes the lumps form right inside the ovaries alongside the egg cells and they are called germ cell tumors. This rarely happens with cases being mostly confined to younger women in their early twenties and below. Another type has lumps that develop in the region responsible for the production of the female hormones. These stromal tumors are not very common as compared to the epithelial type.
Factors that Increase Risk
Ovulation is a major factor in the development of ovarian cancer. The longer a woman ovulates, the greater her chances of having this illness. This means that people who get their period early in life and do not experience menopause until later have increased risk. The same holds true for women who have never given birth.
About one tenth of known cases can be attributed to genetics. Children can inherit the risk from their parents and certain gene mutations raise their chances to 50%. The rest can be traced to obesity, fertility treatments, and hormone replacement therapy. Women can counter this by breast feeding, undergoing tubal ligation, and using hormonal birth control.
Screening, Prevention and Treatment
Like all cancers, early detection is absolutely crucial. It should ideally be caught before it gets the chance to spread to other parts of the body. Women who are considered as high risk individuals must have themselves screened on a regular basis. Those with moderate risk need not be screened as the statistics show no significant benefits for their segment. In fact, they may just get a false positive result and undergo a traumatic surgery needlessly. This being said, surgery is an effective treatment for women who have ovarian cancer. The tumors are removed one by one to stop their growth.
Women who have an elevated risk of ovarian cancer may wish to consider preventive measures including the removal of the ovaries. This procedure is recommended for people who have the genetic markers like the BRCA gene mutations and a history of the disease in their family. It can be accomplished either through traditional surgical procedures or through the use of advanced technologies like the daVinci Robot. The latter has the advantage of being less intrusive and facilitating a faster recovery.
Do you want to take preventative measures to ensure your optimal health? Making an appointment with a doctor at The Woodlands OBGYN Associates will give you that certain peace of mind.