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  • Writer's pictureThe Oncologist

Ovarian Cancer

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply out of control and form a tumor. If left untreated, the tumor can spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastatic ovarian cancer. The ovaries are two female reproductive glands that produce ova, or eggs. They also produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer often has warning signs, but the earliest symptoms are vague and easy to dismiss.

Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

It’s easy to overlook the early symptoms of ovarian cancer because they’re similar to other common illnesses or they tend to come and go. The early symptoms include:

*abdominal bloating, pressure, and pain *abnormal fullness after eating *difficulty eating *an increase in urination *an increased urge to urinate

Ovarian cancer can also cause other symptoms, such as: fatigue, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, back pain, menstrual irregularities, painful intercourse dermatomyositis (a rare inflammatory disease that can cause skin rash, muscle weakness, and inflamed muscles) These symptoms may occur for any number of reasons. They aren’t necessarily due to ovarian cancer. Many women have some of these problems at one time or another. These types of symptoms are often temporary and respond to simple treatments in most cases. Again, cancers are best treated when detected early so it is best to consult with a doctor if you experience new and unusual symptoms. The above symptoms will persist if they’re due to ovarian cancer. Symptoms usually become more severe as the tumor grows. By this time, the cancer has usually spread outside of the ovaries, making it much harder to treat effectively.

Types of Ovarian Cancer The ovaries are made up of three types of cells. Each cell can develop into a different type of tumor:

-Epithelial tumors form in the layer of tissue on the outside of the ovaries. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors. -Stromal tumors grow in the hormone-producing cells. Seven percent of ovarian cancers are stromal tumors. -Germ cell tumors develop in the egg-producing cells. Germ cell tumors are rare.

Ovarian Cysts Most ovarian cysts aren’t cancerous. These are called benign cysts. However, a very small number can be cancerous. An ovarian cyst is a collection of fluid or air that develops in or around the ovary. Most ovarian cysts form as a normal part of ovulation, which is when the ovary releases an egg. They usually only cause mild symptoms, like bloating, and go away without treatment. Cysts are more of a concern if you aren’t ovulating. Women stop ovulating after menopause. If an ovarian cyst forms after menopause, tests might be ordered to find out the cause of the cyst, especially if it’s large or doesn’t go away within a few months. If the cyst doesn’t go away, surgery may be recommend to remove it just in case. Its only after the surgery that a determination can be made on whether its cancerous or not.

Risk Factors For Ovarian Cancer The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. These factors can increase your risk:

*A family history of ovarian cancer *Genetic mutations of genes associated with ovarian cancer, *A personal history of breast, uterine, or colon cancer *Obesity *The use of certain fertility drugs or hormone therapies *No history of pregnancy *Endometriosis *Older age is another risk factor. Most cases of ovarian cancer develop after menopause.

It’s possible to have ovarian cancer without having any of these risk factors. Likewise, having any of these risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get ovarian cancer.

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