What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour in one or both ovaries. About nine out of ten ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 40 years. Like most cancers, the risk of ovarian cancer increases with age.
What are the types?
There are four main types of ovarian cancer:
• Epithelial ovarian cancer.
• Germ cell and sex cord stromal cell ovarian cancers.
• Borderline tumors.
• Cancer of the Fallopian Tubes.
Who is at risk?
• Generally those above 50
• A family history of the disease, especially among close relatives.
• Have a personal history of multiple exposures to fertility drugs.
• Personal history of no pregnancies, infertility and/or endometriosis.
Does Ovarian Cancer Have Symptoms?
Ovarian cancer does not usually have any symptoms in its early stages. Some of the symptoms include:
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and diarrhea
• Abnormal vaginal bleeding
• Abdominal discomfort or pain
• Increased frequency of passing urine
The doctor will take a history and perform a physical and pelvic examination before deciding on other investigations. The tests may include some of the following:
– Biopsy, ultrasound, pelvic exam and CT scan
– Blood test — CA 125 and HE4
CA 125 — A biomarker found in greater concentration in ovarian cancer cells than in other cells.
HE4- Known as Human Epididymis Protein 5, it is biomarker to increase the sensitivity of CA 125 for the detection of ovarian cancer.
Combination of HE4 and CA 125:
The combined results provide a risk stratification index for pre- and post- menopausal women presenting pelvic mass. It distinguish between a low or high risk of finding Epithelial Ovarian Cancer.
• Combination of both assays raises the sensitivity for detecting Stage 1/11 of ovarian cancer4.
• HE4 and CA 125 together improve the therapy monitoring of patients with the cancer4.
• Combined HE4 and CA 125 is a more accurate predictor of malignancy than either alone4.
• When used together, it provides a more accurate preoperative determination of the risk of malignancy in women presenting with pelvic mass5.
How can ovarian cancer be treated?
• Radiation therapy
Doctors may recommend a pelvic exam:
• Every 2 — 4 months (for the first 2 years after treatment).
• Every 6 months (for the following 3 years).
Other tests include a CT scan, urinalysis and blood testss.
Myths about ovarian cancer.
Myth 1 : Pap tests can detect ovarian cancer.
Fact : Pap tests, also called Pap smears, are designed to detect cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer. Other exams and tests can help detect ovarian cancer but none are helpful for routine screening.
Myth 2 : Women who have their ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer.
Fact : If one or both ovaries are left intact, ovarian cancer is possible. There’s a very small chance of the disease, even when the ovaries are removed.
Myth 3 : Ovarian cancer is always deadly.
Fact Ovarian cancer is a serious illness, but its not always deadly. When ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated early, five-year survival rates are nearly 93%. Combining certain chemotherapy drugs also may improve survival rates and help prevent recurrence.