Ovarian cancer is characterized by the rapid growth of cells formed in the ovaries, which are capable of invading and destroying healthy body tissues. The female reproductive system contains two almond-sized ovaries, which are responsible for producing eggs and hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Treatment usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
In the early stages, ovarian cancer may appear without noticeable symptoms. Once symptoms appear, they are often initially attributed to more common conditions. These symptoms may include abdominal bloating, rapid satiety during meals, weight loss, pelvic discomfort, fatigue, back pain, changes in bowel habits, and frequent urination. If you experience any worrying signs, it is essential to consult your doctor immediately.
While the exact causes of ovarian cancer are still unclear, some factors can increase your risk. The disease begins with mutations in the DNA of ovarian tissue or nearby cells, leading to rapid cell proliferation and the formation of cancerous masses. Risk factors include advanced age, inherited genetic changes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), family history, being overweight or obese, hormone replacement therapy, endometriosis, menstruation starting early or stopping late, and never becoming pregnant.
Types of ovarian cancer:
The type of ovarian cancer is determined by the primary cell affected. The main types are epithelial ovarian cancer (including subtypes such as serous sarcoma and myxosarcoma), sarcomas (rare and often diagnosed early), and germ cell tumors (uncommon, affecting younger women).
Factors that contribute to an increased risk of ovarian cancer include aging, inherited gene mutations (BRCA1, BRCA2, Lynch syndrome, BRIP1, RAD51C, RAD51D), family history, obesity, hormone replacement therapy, endometriosis, early onset or late cessation of menstruation, and Childlessness (never getting pregnant).
Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent ovarian cancer, some measures may help reduce the risk. Consider discussing the potential benefits and risks of birth control pills with your doctor, especially if you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic counseling and testing may be recommended to evaluate the importance of genetic factors in your condition. In some cases, surgical removal of the ovaries may be considered as a preventative measure if a genetic mutation is identified.
For more information or to request an appointment, you can explore Mayo Clinic’s ovarian cancer care resources and inquire about the cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) test to screen for ovarian cancer. Remember to consult your healthcare professional to address any concerns and determine the most appropriate course of action based on your individual circumstances.