Ovarian cancer

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Bilateral ovarian serous carcinomas, gross pathology.jpg

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:

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
  • Biopsy


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.
  • Chemotherapy
  • 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.

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