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Ovarian Cancer: Overview of symptoms, signs and treatment

  • Posted on- Jul 20, 2015
  • 2645 Views

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. When healthy cells in an ovary change and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumour, it is called ovarian cancer. A tumour can be benign or cancerous. It may or may not spread to other organs of the body. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this stage, it becomes extremely difficult for doctors to treat and is frequently fatal. Early-stage ovarian cancer, in which the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated successfully.

Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer

In most of the cases, no symptoms develop for quite some time after the cancer first develops. Symptoms may appear when the cancerous tumour has become quite large. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

Tests and diagnosis of ovarian cancer

Your doctor is likely to do a pelvic examination which includes the following:
  • Careful inspection of the outer part of your genitals
  • Insertion of two gloved fingers into the vagina and simultaneously presses a hand on your abdomen to feel your uterus and ovaries
  • Insertion of a device into the vagina to visually check for abnormalities
  • Ultrasound, CT scan and other imaging tests of your abdomen and pelvis to determine the size, shape and structure of ovaries
  • Blood test which can detect a protein found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells
  • Surgery to remove a tissue sample and abdominal fluid to confirm a diagnosis of ovarian cancer

Available treatments for ovarian cancer

Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on various factors such as the stage, type and subtype of the cancer and your general health. Your doctor will discuss and explore the best possible option for you. Here are some treatments:
  • Surgery: A surgery is advised in most cases. If the cancer is in early stage, then an operation to remove the affected ovary and associated fallopian tube may be all the treatment required. However, when the cancer has spread to nearby tissues, the surgery involves removing the affected ovary, uterus, the other ovary and abdomen.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a treatment where anti-cancer drugs are used to kill cancer cells or stop them from multiplying. Chemotherapy is given before surgery to make it more successful. Post surgery, you’ll likely be treated with chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  • Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is a treatment where high-energy beams of radiation are used to kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy is not often used for ovarian cancer. It is sometimes used following surgery, to kill cancer cells which may have been left behind after the operation.

There is a good chance of a cure if ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated early. Unfortunately, most cases are not diagnosed at an early stage because symptoms only appear when the cancer has advanced. Even if a cure is not possible, treatment can often slow down the progression of the cancer.