Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian Cancer is one of the most deadly of women’s cancers. Each year, approximately 21,980 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In 2014, approximately 14,270 women will die in the United States from this disease. It is estimated by the World Health Organization Department that there are over 238,000 new cases diagnosed annually and nearly 152,000 deaths worldwide.
Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant or cancerous cells are found in the ovaries. An ovary is one of two small, almond-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus that store eggs or germ cells and produce female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body (in this case the ovary) begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.
Cancer cells sometimes can travel to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process, called metastasis, occurs as the cancer cells move into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body. Cancer cells that spread from other organ sites (such as breast or colon) to the ovary are not considered ovarian cancer. There are many types of tumors that can start in the ovaries. Some are benign, or noncancerous, and the patient can be cured by surgically removing one ovary or the part of the ovary containing the tumor. Some are malignant or cancerous. The treatment options and the outcome for the patient depend on the type of ovarian cancer and how far it has spread before it is diagnosed.
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. When one is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%. Due to ovarian cancer’s non-specific symptoms and lack of early detection tests, only 19% of all cases are found at this early stage. If caught in stage III or higher, the survival rate can be as low as 30.6%. Due to the nature of the disease, each woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer has a different profile and it is impossible to provide a general prognosis.Surgery and chemotherapy are generally used to treat ovarian cancer.Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Quickly feeling full when eating
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvis area
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- A frequent need to urinate
Screenings are important. But, currently, there is no pap smear screening for ovarian cancer. There is a struggle to find a good screening test for ovarian cancer. We don’t have yet the pap smear for ovarian cancer. An ultrasound and CA-125 blood tests in certain patients can be effective but not across the board for all patients. Understanding the human genome is key to finding not only better treatments but also understanding the cause and better prevention. If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your risk of ovarian cancer. Your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor to discuss testing for certain gene mutations that increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Only a small number of women are found to have genetic mutations that can lead to ovarian cancer.