India-based studies have confirmed that over 2,000 women are diagnosed with cancer every day. Of these, 7% of all cases are of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, which are small organs on either side of the uterus. As many people fall prey to late-stage diagnosis, it is important to be aware of the major ovarian cancer symptoms so that you can seek treatment as early as possible. In this article, we will go over some of the essential facts about ovarian cancer.
- What are the Common Ovarian Cancer Symptoms?
- Are There Different Types of Ovarian Cancers?
- How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?
- How are the Ovarian Cancer Stages Determined?
- What are the Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer?
- Can You Take Measures to Prevent Ovarian Cancer?
- What Lifestyle Changes Can Women Expect if They are Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer?
- Is There an Ovarian Cancer Diet?
What are the Common Ovarian Cancer Symptoms?
Unfortunately, early stage ovarian cancer symptoms are far too subtle for people to detect. However, as the disease progresses, certain symptoms gain prominence.
- Feeling full very quickly when eating food
- Not being able to eat properly
- Frequent urination
- Discomfort or pain in the pelvis and abdomen
Apart from these symptoms, patients can also experience any of the following:
- Pain during intercourse
- Lower back pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Disruptions in the menstrual cycle
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Back pain that keeps getting worse
If you experience any of these for more than a total of 2 weeks, you should seek medical attention.
Are There Different Types of Ovarian Cancers?
Yes, ovarian cancer types vary based on where the cancer develops within the ovaries. Ovarian cancer survival rates also vary accordingly. The following are the different types to watch out for:
Epithelial Carcinoma of the Ovary:
85% of all ovarian cancer cases are of this type, making it the most common ovarian cancer type. It occurs in the epithelial cells of the ovaries.
Germ Cell Cancer of the Ovary:
This ovarian cancer type occurs in the germ cells, which means that it occurs in the cells that form the eggs within the ovaries. This type of cancer occurs predominantly in women who are in their 20s. It is a very treatable type of cancer, wherein surgery is the main ovarian cancer treatment, followed by chemotherapy.
Stromal Cell Cancer of the Ovary:
This ovarian cancer type is the rarest one. It develops in the stromal cells in the ovaries and as these cells are responsible for the production of hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, the ovarian cancer signs associated with them are quite noticeable. Some of these signs include extreme uterine bleeding, and are therefore hard to ignore or miss.
How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?
Ovarian cancer diagnosis occurs with the help of imaging tests that allow doctors to see whether there are any abnormal growths on the ovaries. These include MRIs, CT scans and PET scans. A biopsy test is needed to confirm the presence of cancer. Once the ovarian cancer diagnosis is confirmed, doctors will then check to see what stage the cancer has progressed to. This is because the ovarian cancer stages influence the course of treatment that is required.
How are the Ovarian Cancer Stages Determined?
Ovarian cancer stages are basically determined by analysing three key factors:
- The size of the tumour present in the ovaries
- Whether the tumour has begun to invade other issues in the ovaries (or around it)
- Whether the tumour has begun to spread to other areas in the body
The four stages mean the following:
Stage 1: at this stage the cancer is only present in one or both ovaries.
Stage 2: at this stage the cancer is only present in the pelvis.
Stage 3: at this stage the cancer has begun to spread into the abdominal area.
Stage 4: at this stage the cancer has invaded other parts of the body.
What are the Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer treatments largely depend on the stage the cancer has progressed to. However, there are certain constant treatments that are used throughout each stage, with only the aggressiveness of the approach being different.
Surgery to remove the ovaries is the most common treatment option. In some cases, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the reproductive system, doctors may recommend a hysterectomy to remove the uterus entirely.
As is the case with most cancer treatments, chemotherapy is a large part of the treatment process. The dose and duration of chemotherapy can vary from patient to patient, however, typically, a single dose lasts a minimum of 4-6 weeks. Radiation therapy may also be recommended depending on the patient’s health.
Can You Take Measures to Prevent Ovarian Cancer?
There are certain steps that women can take to prevent ovarian cancer. Some of these include:
- Taking birth control pills
- Getting a hysterectomy
- Getting your tubes tied
A hysterectomy and tubal ligation are both medical procedures that require a valid reason for a doctor to perform them. Women who are at-risk for developing these cancers due to genetic factors can opt to get these procedures done.
What Lifestyle Changes Can Women Expect if They are Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer?
If diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the lifestyle changes that one may have to adopt depend largely on the stage of the cancer. Women with stage 1 cancer may not experience major changes – barring the removal of the ovaries. While this will not affect day to day life, it does drastically alter the woman’s reproductive system and its functioning so that if the woman wants a baby later on, she may have to explore other avenues like surrogacy or adoption.
Similarly, women with stage 4 cancer may find their lives drastically altered. With surgery and chemotherapy being a part of the ovarian cancer treatment plans, women may frequently experience nausea, fatigue, lack of balance, hair fall, drowsiness, memory loss, and discomfort. Due to this, the women may be forced to make certain lifestyle changes such as, taking a sabbatical from work, installing ramps on stairs, having a round-the-clock nurse, diet changes, and giving up certain things that may require energy.
Is There an Ovarian Cancer Diet?
Yes, in order to ensure proper nutrition, it is advisable for the patients to follow a strict ovarian cancer diet. This is especially true for women who have undergone a hysterectomy, as they must increase their calories and protein intake in order to heal quickly. Some of the food items that should be a part of the diet are:
- Dairy products such as cheese and milk
- High calorie condiments like dressings or sauces
- Nuts for random snacking throughout the day
- Food cooked in butter or oil
Cancer survivors must structure their diet to include lean meats, omega-3 rich fish, whole grains, and high-calorie foods. This will ensure that you feel energetic and healthy during and after your battle with cancer.
As this disease does not present with noticeable ovarian cancer symptoms during the early stages, it is vital to get regular blood work done as the results can help doctors identify the presence of cancer in the body. Other tests that you can consider are tests for elevated HCG levels, tests for antigens, and liver function tests in order to determine whether you have an early variant of this disease. Remember that a significant portion of the battle is won with an early ovarian cancer diagnosis.