What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a group of diseases that originates in the ovaries, or in the related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum. It is more common in older women. Treatment is most effective when the cancer is found early.
There is no way to know for sure if you will get ovarian cancer. Most women get it without being at high risk. However, several factors may increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer, including if you—
- Are middle-aged or older.
- Have close family members (such as your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother) on either your mother’s or your father’s side, who have had ovarian cancer.
- Have a genetic mutation (abnormality) called BRCA1 or BRCA2.
- Have had breast, uterine or colon cancer.
- Have endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body).
- Have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant.
- In addition, some studies suggest that women who take estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for 10 or more years may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, but these things are associated with a lower chance of getting ovarian cancer—
- Having used birth control pills for five or more years.
- Having had a tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied), both ovaries removed, or a hysterectomy (an operation in which the uterus, and sometimes the cervix, is removed).
- Having given birth.
- Breastfeeding. Some studies suggest that women who breastfeed for a year or more may have a modestly reduced risk of ovarian cancer.
Avoiding risk factors may lower your risk, but it does not mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
Ovarian cancer may cause the following signs and symptoms—
- Vaginal bleeding (particularly if you are past menopause), or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you.
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area.
- Abdominal or back pain.
- Feeling full too quickly, or difficulty eating.
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation.
Here is what you can do:
- Pay attention to your body, and know what is normal for you. If you notice any changes in your body that are not normal for you and could be a sign of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor about them.
- Ask your doctor if you should have a diagnostic test, like a rectovaginal pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test if you have any unexplained signs or
symptoms of ovarian cancer. These tests sometimes help find or rule out ovarian cancer.
Types of Treatment
Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
- Surgery: Doctors remove cancer tissue in an operation.
- Chemotherapy: Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
Content Source: Womenshealth.gov