Ovarian cancer or cancer of the ovaries, is a malignancy that affects females.
The ovaries are two small structures that found in adult females, they are about the size of small plums and are situated in the pelvis either side of the uterus.
Cancer is the name given to a malignant growth or tumour. More precisely, a cancer is a malignant growth that comes from the epithelial cells (the lining or surface cells) of an organ. Tumours from the deeper cells of an organ are not called cancer medically, but are called sarcomas. However, in general speech, any malignancy tends to be called a cancer.
Ovarian cancer tends to be a disease of middle aged to older women. Certainly looking at a population, most ovarian cancers occur in older women. Of course, as with any population study, there are always very unlucky people who can get such diseases at a younger age. However, although very distressing, this is fortunately much less common.
If ovarian cancer is caught early, it is a perfectly curable disease. Unfortunately, because the ovaries are deep inside the body, and there are not usually any symptoms related to early ovarian cancer, it is very unusual for ovarian cancer to be caught at an early stage.
Although cervical smears can pick up cancer of the cervix and sometimes cancer of the womb (endometrial cancer) it cannot pick up cancer the ovaries. The usual way that ovarian cancer is found is that it has become so extensive, the woman suffering from it starts noticing symptoms such as pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis, change in the habit of her bowel due to pressure on the lower intestine or swelling from the tumour itself and associated fluid (called ascites).
To diagnose ovarian cancer, the first thing is for someone to think of it and the second is to have a specific imaging test to look for it. The usual first imaging test for this condition is ultrasound scan. There is a blood test for ovarian cancer called a CA-125. Although this is very useful, particularly for monitoring treatment and looking for recurrence after treatment, it is not a perfect test by any stretch of the imagination, and several ovarian cancers produced negative results and conversely, other conditions can cause positive results.
Treatment of ovarian cancer really depends upon what stage it is when it is discovered, and exactly what sort of ovarian cancer it is. Depending exactly which sort of cell in the ovary became malignant, the nature of the vein cancer can change. Some are more solid and others produce more cysts.
In addition to this, research and new developments are continually pushing back the frontiers of all cancer treatments. Therefore it is essential to get an expert opinion if ovarian cancer is either suspected or found. Treatments can include surgery, radiotherapy and or chemotherapy.
Although such information can be very frightening, the one universal truth is that the quicker a patient finds an expert to diagnose and treat them, the higher the chance of a cure.