The most dangerous gynecological cancer is ovarian cancer because of its asymptomatic nature. Ovarian cancer couldn’t be found early due to a lack of active screening, and early detection techniques.
Detection of cancer itself is a matter of great concern. However, with the advancement of technologies both in detection and treatment, the survival rates are also increasing.
Let me introduce you to Tiffany, a 45-year-old from Kampala, Uganda, an ovarian cancer patient who survived it, and now she wants other women around the world to learn from her experience.
Tiffany is a mother of two daughters and works in the insurance industry. Tiffany’s husband Ted is a caring husband. She is a very active and fun-loving woman.
Three years back, Tiffany 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 amazing food and drinks on the beach and took a nap. She began to vomit while she was asleep. She knew that something was wrong and she decided to see the gastroenterologist back who had done the EGD.
The doctor said that she had a disorder that didn’t allow food to properly digest in her body. Tiffany didn’t get convinced with the doctor’s advice and decided to meet another Gastroenterologist doctor who examined her stomach and suggested she do a CT scan.
The next day the test report came and the doctor called Tiffany to come to the hospital and informed her that she had ovarian cancer. She was in shock and became uncontrollable. Ted supported her and they both came back to home. Luckily Ted’s aunt is a nurse in the hospital and advised Ted to not to take any risk and visit India for treatment and Ted’s aunt already knew about MedicoExperts as MedicoExperts visit regularly in their hospital for conducting medical and surgical camps. Ted’s aunt forwarded the MedicoExperts number to Ted.
Ted contacted MedicoExperts and forwarded all the reports. The MedicoExperts team explained the tumor board approach for the treatment and also arranged online video consultation with the gynec oncologist. Tiffany and Ted had so many doubts regarding the treatment. All of them were cleared during the online consultations. After understanding all the aspects of the treatment protocol, they decided to come to India for the treatment.
After landing, she was admitted to the hospital and the evaluation test was performed to check the spread of cancer. After analyzing the reports the doctor decided to perform surgery and chemotherapy and explained to Ted and Tiffany regarding the treatment approach and the reasons behind the approach.
The doctor performed a radical hysterectomy and six rounds of chemotherapy. After her treatment was finished reevaluation tests were performed to check the outcome of the treatment. The result came and no cancer was detected.
Tiffany and Ted were very happy with the outcome and thanked the MedicoExperts doctors for the treatment and MedicoExperts team for support.
This could be your story as well to defeat ovarian cancer.
Before we start our discussion on different options to treat ovarian cancer, Let’s first understand what Ovarian cancer is.
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 are the different types of Ovarian Cancer?
The type of cell where cancer starts determines the type of ovarian 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.
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.
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
- Back pain
- Nausea, Constipation, Indigestion, or diarrhea
- Frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
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
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.
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 ovarian 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.
The cost of ovarian cancer treatment depends upon the type of treatment carried out. Private hospitals may charge 675.75 – 2027 USD (Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,50,000 INR) for one cycle of chemotherapy. Radiotherapy can cost up to 2702 USD (Rs 2,00,000 INR) and surgery may cost up to 4324 USD (Rs 3,20,000 INR). The treatment of ovarian cancer involves a combination of these treatments hence the total cost might go up to 13514 USD (Rs 10,00,000 INR).
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.
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
- 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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