There are two ovaries in the female reproduction system. The ovaries are located on both sides of the uterus and produce ova or eggs and also estrogen and progesterone hormones. Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the ovaries. It is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in women. Women of all ages can be affected by ovarian cancer but the risk is high after menopause. Ovarian cancer also spreads to pelvis and abdomen, if it is not treated during the early stages. There are three types of ovarian cancer- epithelial tumors, stromal tumor, and germ cell tumors.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is hard to diagnose because there are no major symptoms in the early stage. Some of the common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Bloating or swelling in the abdominal region
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urination and increased urge to urinate
- Discomfort in the pelvic region
- Quickly feeling satiated while eating
- Constipation and other changes in bowel habits
- Menstrual irregularities
- Painful intercourse
Most of these symptoms are encountered by women regularly, due to hormonal and other changes. Consult a doctor immediately, if you notice either one or more of these symptoms in a recurrent manner.
Diagnosis of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed by a gynecological oncologist by performing a pelvic examination and some tests like a transvaginal ultrasound, pelvic CT scan, blood tests, and biopsy.
- Ultrasound scans
Ultrasound scans are the best method to diagnose the ovarian tumor. A doctor places a small device in the vagina and scans the images on the monitor. The doctor will be able to have a good look at the ovaries and examine the tumors this way. They can know whether the tumor is a solid mass or a cyst. They can even determine the size of the tumor and its exact location on the ovaries.
- CT scan
CT scan is used to identify whether cancer has spread to other organs. The CT scan helps the doctor to identify large tumors, enlarged lymph nodes and if the cancer is spreading to other nearby organs. The doctor may suggest a CT scan if he wants to confirm that the ovarian cancer is not spreading to other nearby organs like the pelvis, kidneys, and bladder.
- MRI scan
MRI scans help the doctors to identify the spread of ovarian cancer to other organs of the body like the brain and spinal cord. The MRI scan uses magnetic waves to create images of internal organs of the body.
- Blood tests
The doctor might ask for a blood test to identify the tumor markers that indicate the presence of ovarian cancer. You might have to take a cancer antigen 125 or CA 125 test to ascertain the presence of a protein that is present in the ovarian cancer cells.
There are various methods to treat ovarian cancer. The method of treatment generally depends on the stage of cancer. Some of the treatments for ovarian cancer are chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. The success of treatment is higher when the cancer is identified at an early stage.