What is ovarian cancer? What are its types and treatment options
Cancer is a disease which is caused by uncontrolled growth of cells in an organ. One of the most common cancer found among women after breast cancer is the cancer of the ovaries or ovarian cancer.
Ovaries are the most important part of the reproductive system of a female’s body that produces eggs which are necessary for successful impregnation.
Here is what you need to know about ovarian cancer- the symptoms, the types and treatments.
1 What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in and affects the ovaries. Women have two ovaries, one present on each side of the uterus. The ovaries, which are each about the size of an almond function to produce eggs or ovum as well as the hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
These eggs or ovum are produced periodically and when a sperm meets an ovum and impregnates it, it becomes the cause for a woman to get pregnant.
Ovarian cancer has a tendency to go unnoticed since it is mostly between the area of the pelvis and stomach. But if not detected at an early stage, the cancer then becomes untreatable and proves to be fatal for the patient. Though during the early stage, the time when the cancerous growth is limited to the ovaries, this cancer can be successfully treated.
2 What are the types and symptoms of ovarian cancer?
There are mainly 2 types of ovarian cancer- the first type being Epithelial ovarian cancer which starts in the layers of cells that cover the ovaries and the whole of the abdominal cavity. It is the most common type of ovarian cancer. The second type is the Germ cell ovarian cancer which begins in the egg producing cells in the ovaries.
This cancer is more likely to affect women in their teens or early 20s. The third type of cancer is Sex cord-stromal ovarian cancer which originates in the connective tissue of the ovaries, which are responsible for female sex hormone production.
The most usual symptoms of ovarian cancer are the same, though some might differ from woman to woman. Here are some the most common symptoms:
- Nausea and constant abdominal bloating
- Loss of appetite
- Pressure in lower back or pelvis
- Frequent urination
- Feeling tired or low energy
3 What are the stages of ovarian cancer?
There are mainly 4 stages of ovarian cancer:
Stage 1 – Cancer is either present in one ovary or both the ovaries. There may or may not be any cancerous cell present on the surface of the ovary or the pelvis or the abdominal wall around it.
Stage 2 – Cancer is present in both the ovaries and has spread to either the fallopian tubes or the bladder, colon and rectum. The stage 2 also depicts whether the cancer is found in the fluid samples from the abdomen or not.
Stage 3 – Stage 3 is a more serious stage of cancer where it is determined that the cancerous cells are present in both the ovaries and are found in the abdominal fluid as well. Also it determines the presence of cancerous cells as tumors present in abdominal wall. And lastly presence of cancerous cells in lymph nodes also occurs at this stage.
Stage 4 – This is the fatal stage of ovarian cancer and it means that the cancer has spread from ovaries to distant places like the lungs or the liver.
It is very difficult to treat or remove the cancer at stage 4 and if diagnosed at this stage, the cancer is usually fatal. Though, if the cancer is detected in the early stages, the cancer can be removed or treated easily.
4 Ovarian cancer treatments
Treatment options for Ovarian cancer will be determined by the specialist treating the patient according to the level till which cancer cells have spread to the ovaries and the stage of the cancer.
But mainly, there are 3 treatment options for ovarian cancer:
Surgery – It is the most common way to treat cancerous growths.
Chemotherapy – It is the way to treat cancer using chemicals and drugs that travel via the bloodstream and destroy the cancer cells present in the ovaries.
Radiation – Radiation is used in the extreme cases or if the previous method of chemotherapy fails. It uses high energy X-Rays to kill the cancer cells and shrink the tumors.
Apart from these usual methods for treating ovarian cancer, there are some alternative methods that are suggested to patients before trying the more clinical methods. These are:
- Herbal medicine
While alternative therapies give preference to more of unconventional methods to treat ovarian cancer, the patients must always consult the doctor if they want to combine the traditional treatment with alternative treatments.