by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Ovarian cancer is a term that covers a group of tumors that develop in the different types of tissue that make up the ovaries, the most common of which is epithelial ovarian cancer because it develops in the epithelial cells. With the exception of Japan, ovarian cancer is more prevalent in industrialized countries. In the US ovarian cancer is the second most common invasive cancer diagnosed in women, with approximately imately 22,000 newly diagnosed cases every year. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading of death from cancer in women with more than half of those deaths occurring in women between the ages of 55-74
years of age and one quarter of the deaths occurring in women between the ages of 35-54 years of age. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death in women with a gynecological cancer, it is also the deadliest.
There are several types of ovarian cancer and the exact cause oa any of them is still unknown. However, researchers have identified risk factors that increase your chances of developing ovarian cancer, the most significant one being a family history. Women that have a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer especially should talk with their Dr about possible genetic counseling or testing. Other risk factors include if you are over 55years of age your risk is higher, also if you are older and have never been pregnant your risk is higher. If you are taking hormone replacement therapy for menopause studies show the risk of ovarian cancer is also higher. It’s important to remember that just because you have one or more risk factor it doesn’t mean that you will develop ovarian cancer. The majority of women that have risk factors do not develop ovarian cancer just as women that do develop ovarian cancer don’t have any risk factors.
One of the things that makes ovarian cancer so deadly is that the symptoms especially in the early stages are frequently mistaken as symptoms of other more common problems including bladder problems or problems related to the digestive tract. If there are symptoms of ovarian cancer they are usually persistant, they will continue even after you have tried to treat whatever you think the problem is. The most common symptoms you may experience are pain and pressure in your abdomen, back, pelvis, and/or legs. A swollen, bloated abdomen, nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms as well as constant fatigue.
If you have symptoms of ovarian cancer and especially if you have a family history it’s important to contact your Dr because early
detection and diagnosis are crucial to treatment and survival. Treatment depends of the type of ovarian cancer and the stage it’s in when diagnosed. Surgery is always first. The surgeon will remove the ovary or ovaries depending on whether or not both ovaries are affected and whether or not you wish to have children after the ovarian cancer has been treated. The Dr will also remove the fallopian tube or tubes and any other affected tissue during the surgery as wekk as take biopsies of surrounding tissue to determine how far it has spread. Chemotherapy is recommended following surgery for the majority of women.
After treatment it’s important te get regular check ups because even when there aren’t any symptoms the cancer is often still present, too frequently there are undetected cancer cells that are hiding somewhere in your body. Many women that have been diagnosed with and treated for ovarian cancer find that it helps to join a support group. Your Dr can provide you with information on local groups available.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.