The ovaries are responsible for the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone as well as ova. However, sometimes abnormal cells in the ovaries can turn into tumors. These tumors are the cause of ovarian cancer and can spread to other parts of the body. This is because of the close proximity of the ovarian tissue to the bladder and bowels. Ovarian cancer is fairly common but if the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can be recognized in its early stages, it can be treated.
In its earliest stages, the signs of ovarian cancer can be difficult to diagnose. This is because these symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of the illnesses. They may also come and go. Some of these early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
• Abdominal bloating
• Pain in the abdomen
• Feeling of fullness after eating just a little bit
• Increased urge to urinate frequently
• Heart burn
• Menstrual irregularities
• Pain during intercourse
Signs of ovarian cancer usually get worse as the tumors grow larger. They may also follow a pattern such as starting abruptly or coming and going every day. If the symptoms persist for more than a fortnight, you should consult a doctor immediately.
Though the exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known, certain factors could increase a woman’s risk of suffering from ovarian cancer. These include:
• Other family members who have suffered from ovarian cancer
• Not having had any children
• Use of certain types of fertility drugs and hormone therapy
• Having suffered from other forms of cancer such as breast cancer or uterine cancer
• Genetic mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2
A pelvic exam is the first step to confirming a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Small tumors can be hard to feel and hence your doctor may also ask you to undergo a few tests such as a trans-vaginal ultrasound, a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvic region, blood tests to measure cancer antigen levels and a biopsy.
On the basis of these tests, your doctor will be able to ascertain whether you have ovarian cancer or not and the stage your cancer has reached. Treatment for ovarian cancer depends largely on the stage of the cancer.
Stage I: Here the cancerous tumors are restricted to one or both ovaries. In the later part of this stage it may also begin to spread outside the ovaries.
Stage II: In the early part of stage II, cancer cells would have reached the fallopian tubes and uterus. In the latter half of this stage, the tumors may also begin affecting the bladder or rectum.
Stage III: When the cancer spreads into the abdomen lining and abdominal lymph nodes, the cancer is said to have reached stage III. It may also begin affecting the liver and spleen then.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of cancer where the tumors metastasize beyond the abdomen and reach the lungs or even the brain.