Ovarian cancer is a diseases that is caused by the growth of cancer cells in different parts of the ovaries. It is the 5th most common cancer among females. Until recently, the disease is known to be a “silent killer” because it is not normally detected until it has already spread in different parts of the body.
Signs and symptoms
Ovarian cancer is usually asymptomatic. However, it is detected when the following symptoms are felt or seen in the body:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
- A feeling of pressure, fullness, bloating, or swelling in the abdomen
- An urgency to urinate frequently
- Pelvic and lower back pain
- Loss of appetite and a feeling of fullness
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Fatigue and weakness
- Having indigestion, diarrhea, gassiness, and nausea
Causes and risk factors
The exact cause of ovarian cancer remains unknown. Researchers believe that it may be due to the genetic errors and the growth of abnormal cells that occur may during a woman’s reproductive cycle. However, these factors may increase a woman’s risk of having ovarian cancer:
- Family history of cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer, uterine, or colorectal cancer
- Age over 55 years or during the menopausal stage
- Taking hormone replacement therapy, particularly estrogen without progesterone for more than five years
- The use of androgens in treating endometriosis
Diagnosis and tests
No standardized screening test exists for ovarian cancer. The screening tests available commercially today are unproven to exactly detect this type of cancer. These are:
- Annual pelvic examination for women 40 years and older
- Physical examination focusing on the abdomen to check for abnormal fluid build-up
- CA-125 blood test especially for women who have had breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer
- Pelvic ultrasound
There are four stages of ovarian cancer and treatment will depend on which stage the patient is diagnosed with:
- Stage I: The cancer is confined within the ovary or the two ovaries.
- Stage II: The cancer is present in one or both off the ovaries and has spread to the organs located in the pelvis such as the bladder, colon, rectum, or uterus.
- Stage III: The cancer is present in both ovaries and has spread to the lining of the abdomen and/or the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The cancer is present in both ovaries and has spread to other organs such as the liver or the lungs.
Depending on its stage, ovarian cancer may be treated by the following methods:
- Surgery – Removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus, nearby lymph nodes, and the omentum which is a fold of fat abdominal tissue.
- Radiation therapy or radiation oncology
Prevention and control
There is no known way to prevent the incidence of ovarian cancer. However, the following appear to reduce the risk of having this disease:
Cases in the Philippines
As of 2010, there is no available data showing the incidence of ovarian cancer in the Philippines. However, the Department of Health (DOH) website states that it is the 12th most common cancer and the 5th among females.
In March 2010, the mother of actress Francine Prieto succumbed to Stage III ovarian cancer. She has battled the said disease for almost a year and was undergoing chemotherapy before the cancer cells damaged her lungs which caused her death.
- Ovarian Cancer. Department of Health. (Acessed 29 October 2010.)
- "Facts and Figures: Breast, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancer." Pinay In Action. (Accessed 29 October 2010.)
- "What Every Woman Should Know About Ovarian Cancer." (29 October 2010.)
- Ovarian Cancer (Cancer of the Ovaries). (29 October 2010.)
- Ovarian Cancer. MayoClinic.com. (Accessed 1 November 2010.)
- “PEP: Francine Prieto's mom succumbs to ovarian cancer.” GMANews.tv. (Accessed 1 November 2010.)