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How Ovarian Cancer Treatments Can Help You Live A Better Life?

She is a mother of two daughters and works in the insurance industry. In March 2013, she started having some bloating and unexplained weight gain.

She went to a couple of doctors and had an X-ray and EGD (also called upper endoscopy, a test to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine). Tests could not find anything.

Next month, she went on a vacation with her best friend on her birthday. She had an amazing root beer float on the beach and took a nap. She began to vomit while she was asleep.

She knew that something was wrong and went back to the gastroenterologist who had done the EGD. He said that she had a disorder that didn’t allow food to properly digest in her body, however, she needed to order her ultrasound on her own.

Feeling put off, she found another GI doctor who immediately felt her stomach and ordered a CT scan. He called her back to the office and informed her that she has ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer patient image
Ovarian cancer patient image 2

She was in shock and became uncontrollable. She was fortunate that her aunt is an oncology nurse who helped her to get to the top gynecologic oncologist in the nation. He performed a radical hysterectomy and experienced six rounds of chemotherapy. Her treatment finished in November 2013.

She lost the ability to bear any more children. There were times during the treatment when she was sick, even needed help taking a bath. She lost hair five days after the start of the treatment.

She wants everyone to learn the symptoms of ovarian cancer early. She never had an abnormal pap (Pap test is to detect cervical cancer). Hence it is important to know and listen to your body until doctors can detect one.

So how do you know your body? In this article, you will learn all about ovarian cancer and how you can get the right treatment for yourself. So, let’s get started.

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What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer refers to unusual growth appearing in different parts of the ovaries.

The ovary is a part of a woman’s reproductive system where eggs are developed.

Most ovarian cancers start from the surface of the ovary called ‘epithelial cancer’.

what is ovarian cancer
Types of Ovarian cancer

Types of Ovarian Cancer

The type of cell where cancer starts determines the type of ovary cancer that include:

  • Epithelial cancer – This is the most common ovarian cancer. It starts on the top of the ovary.
  • Stromal tumors – These tumors are diagnosed at an earlier stage. It starts to grow in the hormone-producing cells.
  • Germ cell tumors – These are rare tumors that occur at a younger age. These develop in the egg-producing cells.

symptoms

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer often does not show symptoms but as cancer grows, the following symptoms can be seen:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Pain the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Nausea, Constipation, Indigestion, or diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Shortness of breath
sign and symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian Cancer Stages

The stage of ovarian cancer is determined based on how far cancer has spread and is divided into four stages and their substages:

This is the least advanced stage of ovary cancer, and the cancer is within the ovaries.

Stage IA – Cancer is confined inside one ovary.

Stage IB – Cancer is inside both the ovaries.

Stage IC – Cancer is present in both the ovaries and includes one of the below:

  • Stage IC1 – Cancer cells have leaked to the belly area during surgery.
  • Stage IC2 – Fluid-filled tumor has burst, and cancer cells have spilled your belly before surgery.
  • Stage IC3 – Lab tests find cancer cells in fluid in your abdomen.

Cancer has reached organs near the ovaries but has not spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.

Stage IIA – Cancer is in the uterus, fallopian tubes, or both.

Stage IIB – Cancer has scattered to organs in your pelves like the bladder, colon, or rectum.

Cancer is in your stomach lining, lymph nodes, or both.

Stage IIIA1 – Cancer is in lymph nodes and might be growing to nearby organs. Cancer in the lymph nodes is either less than 10mm or bigger than 10mm.

Stage IIIA2 – Cancer in your stomach lining which can only be seen through a microscope and might have also spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IIIB – Cancer in your belly which is less than 2cm across. They may also have spread outside your liver and spleen and in your lymph nodes.

Stage IIIC – Cancer has increased by more than 2cm.

This is the most advanced stage which shows that cancer has spread to distant organs.

Stage IVA – Cancer cells are in the lung but haven’t spread to areas outside your abdomen.

Stage IVB – Cancer has been found in lymph nodes, as well as tissues and organs.

risk-factor-for-ovarian-cancer

Causes

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

The risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • Age – The risk of ovary cancer rises with age. It is most often detected in older adults.
  • Never had children – If you’ve never been pregnant, you may have increased chances of getting ovarian cancer.
  • Family record of ovarian cancer – If you have relatives who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, then you may have an increased risk of having it.
  • Early or late start of menstruation – Beginning menstruation in the early stage or later stage increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Overweight – Being overweight or obese also increases the chances of ovarian cancer.
  • Endometriosis – It is often a painful illness in which tissue inside of the uterus starts growing outside the uterus.

Most cases of ovarian cancer develop after menopause. It is possible to have ovarian cancer without having any risk factors. Similarly, any of these factors doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop ovarian cancer

diagnosis

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

If you have any symptoms of ovarian cancer, then the doctor will ask you to get any of the following tests:

In this test, the doctor checks general signs of health. Your doctor may press your abdomen to check for tumors or abnormal fluid buildup. A sample of fluid can be taken to check for ovarian cancer cells.

The doctor can inspect the genitals, vagina, uterus, and ovaries for any changes.

In blood tests, the lab may check the level of several substances, including CA-125. CA-125 is an ingredient found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells and on some other normal tissues. This test alone is not enough for a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

It uses sound waves and creates pictures from the echoes. The picture might show ovarian cancer. There are two types of ultrasounds, one is internal ultrasound, where an ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina. Another one is external ultrasound, where the probe is put next to your stomach.

It is the removal of tissue or fluid to check for cancer cells. Based on the blood test and ultrasound results, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove tissue and fluid from the pelvis and abdomen. Surgery is usually necessary to diagnose ovarian cancer.

The doctor inserts a light tube called a laparoscope in the abdomen. It may be used to remove a small cyst or early ovarian cancer.

It takes the images of the abdomen, chest, and pelvis and combines them to form a 3D picture to help doctors find the signs of cancer in the body.

It uses radiation that takes images of the inside of the body. It is useful to find out if ovarian cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

treatment

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Your doctor will determine the treatment plan based on how far cancer has spread and most likely to involve a combination of two or more treatments.

This is the main treatment of ovary cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor, but complete removal of the uterus is often necessary, called hysterectomy. The doctor might also recommend removing both ovaries and fallopian tubes, nearby lymph nodes, and other pelvic tissue.

Targeted therapy attacks the cancer cells while doing little damage to the normal cells. Your doctor may test your cancer cells to determine which targeted therapy will have more effect on your cancer.

It is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill the growing cancer cells in the body. It can be injected into the vein or taken by mouth. It is often used after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer can also be used ahead of surgery.

It uses drugs to block the effects of ovary cancer cells. Some ovarian cancer cells use estrogen to help them grow up hence blocking them can help control ovarian cancer. It can be a treatment option for slow-growing ovarian cancer and can be a treatment of cancer that comes back after initial treatments.

It uses the immune system to fight against cancer. The body’s disease-fighting immune system might not attack cancer cells because they produce a protein that helps cancer cells to hide from immune system cells. Hence immunotherapy interferes with this process.

It is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of serious illness. They offer an extra layer of support that adds to your continuing care. It can be used while undergoing aggressive treatment, such as chemotherapy or surgery. When this is used along with other appropriate treatments, people feel better and live longer.

It is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other trained professionals. It aims to improve the quality of life for people with cancer and their families.

Treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery can damage your reproductive organs, which makes it difficult to become pregnant in the future. There are possible fertility preservations that include:

  • Embryo Freezing – This requires freezing a fertilized egg.
  • Oocyte Freezing – This requires freezing an unfertilized egg.
  • Surgery to preserve fertility – Here, only one ovary with cancer is removed which is only possible during early-stage ovarian cancer.
  • Ovarian tissue preservation – This involves removing and freezing the ovarian tissue for the future.
  • Ovarian suppression – Taking hormones to suppress ovarian function temporarily.

Ovarian cancer Treatment Cost in India

Treatment cost of Ovarian Cancer

The cost of treatment depends upon the type of treatment carried out. Private hospitals may charge Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,50,000 for one cycle of chemotherapy. Radiotherapy can cost up to Rs 2,00,000 and surgery may cost up to Rs 3,20,000. The treatment of ovarian cancer involves a combination of these treatments hence the total cost might go up to Rs 10,00,000.

ovarian cancer treatment cost
ovarian cancer survival rate

Survival Rate

Survival Rate of Ovarian Cancer

The five-year survival rate of ovarian cancer found at an early stage (stage I) is very good i.e., 93%. However, the five-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is only 48% since it is often found at an advanced stage in which the disease has already spread within the abdomen.

Conclusion

It is important to diagnose Ovarian Cancer at an early stage since it can be treated well in advance before it gets to an advanced stage.  Often, they are diagnosed at an advanced stage and become difficult to treat because cancer has spread beyond ovaries. Hence it is advisable to look for signs and symptoms and get medical advice according to your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions and patient concerns:

Is Ovarian Cancer curable?

All types of ovarian cancer are treatable if diagnosed at an early stage.

Does Ovarian Cancer spread quickly?

Ovarian cancer grows faster and can progress from early-stage to advanced-stage within a year.

How to check for Ovarian Cancer at home?

It is not possible to diagnose ovarian cancer at home, but if you are aware of the symptoms then you can ask the doctor for medical advice.

At what age can you get Ovarian Cancer?

The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age. Most ovarian cancer develops after menopause and half of them are found in women 65 years or above. It is rare in women below the age of 40. Women over the age of 50 have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

When should you be screened for Ovarian Cancer?

The screening may be recommended starting at the age of 30 to 35, or 5 to 10 years earlier than the age at which a family member was diagnosed. Screening may include a blood test for CA-125 and a pelvic ultrasound.

How to detect Ovarian Cancer?

Only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage which has a great five-year survival rate (93%). Hence it is recommended for below to detect ovarian cancer early.

  • Have regular health exams
  • See a doctor if you find any symptoms
  • Screening tests for ovarian cancer

How to Prevent Ovarian Cancer?

There are no proven ways to prevention of ovarian cancer, but the below steps can lower the risk:

  • Taking contraceptive pills
  • Breastfeeding
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgery on reproductive organs like hysterectomy

How to prevent recurrence of Ovarian Cancer?

There is no way to prevent ovarian cancer from coming back. No specific diet can be prescribed as a proven method for ovarian cancer prevention. However, it is recommended to have a healthy diet, exercise, and see your cancer care team for follow-up visits.

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