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Ovarian Cancer

What is Ovarian Cancer? Ovarian cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women, along with breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. There are three different types of ovarian cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common and arguably, the most dangerous. Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow on one or both ovaries. The cancer stems from tumors that grow on either the epithelial tissue, stromal tissue, or germ cells.

Most cases of ovarian cancer are able to be cured if it is detected during the early stages of the disease. However, like most cancers, ovarian cancer does not produce any physical symptoms until the later stages of the disease. Causes of Ovarian Cancer While there are many theories as to what factors attribute to the creation of ovarian cancer, health care providers are still not confident on exact causes. However, there have been many studies that suggest various components that may lead to ovarian cancer. One of these components is gene mutations. Women can suffer from an inherited gene mutation in either the breast cancer gene 1 or the breast cancer gene 2. These gene mutations originally established their name by affecting women with breast cancer, but recent studies have linked these gene mutations to ovarian cancer as well. A woman's age is also believed to have influence on her risk for ovarian cancer. Most cases of ovarian cancer develop after menopause. Statistics show that the average age for women who develop ovarian cancer is seventy.
However, younger women can develop the disease as well. Medical experts believe that women who have had children have a lower risk of getting ovarian cancer. It is also believed that fertility drugs can dramatically increase a woman's risk for ovarian cancer. It is generally not known why giving birth affects a woman's risk, but studies have shown that there is a relationship. Recent studies have shown that there is a possible link between postmenopausal use of the hormones estrogen and the risk of ovarian cancer. Women who undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for over five years nearly double their risk factor of developing ovarian cancer at some point in their lifetime. Obesity has also shown to increase risk for ovarian cancer. Women who suffer from obesity have a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. Obesity actually has the ability to affect the stage of ovarian cancer an individual develops. Ovarian Cancer Symptoms The symptoms of ovarian cancer are why the disease is known as the "silent killer". Like many other forms of cancer, symptoms are not produced until the later stages of the disease, which decreases the chances of curing it. There is strong evidence that genetics have a lot to do with the cause of Ovarian Cancer.
 If a woman a family history of uterine, colon or other gastrointestinal cancers, they may have a higher risk for ovarian cancer. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are constant nausea, pain during intercourse, abnormal bladder or bowel habits, a major decrease in energy and lower back pain. Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer are more noticeable during certain activities or situations such as after eating, during intercourse, or during times of stress. Types of Ovarian Cancer There are three different types of ovarian cancer. The most common type is epithelial ovarian cancer. This type is caused by a tumor that grows on the epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue covers both the inside and outside of the entire body. Epithelial tumors account for every three out of four cases of ovarian tumors. The second most common cause of ovarian cancer are germ cell tumors.
This type of cancer is caused by tumors that grow on germ cells that are in the ovaries, as these cells only grow in reproductive organs. More than one in four cases of ovarian tumors are identified as germ cell tumors. There are four different stages for germ cell tumors. Each subsequent stage indicates the size of the tumor and the damage it has caused. The least common cause of ovarian cancer is caused by stromal tumors. Stromal cells are what create the majority of estrogen and progesterone in women. Stromal tumors begin on stromal tissue. The stromal tissue is what links the two ovaries together in order to create the two important female hormones. The most common side effect from stromal tumors is vaginal bleeding. Not all of these tumors will definitely advance into cancers. If any of these three tumors are detected early on, they can be removed by either chemotherapy, surgery, or a combination of both.

| Epithelial Tumors | Germ Cell Tumors | Stromal Tumors |

Ovarian Cancer Screening: Right now the only methods of ovarian cancer screening are an ultrasound and a special blood test. These methods can only detect ovarian cancer once it has grown too large to remove or cure. Less than twenty five percent of ovarian cancer cases are detected during the early stages of the disease. This is why there is a huge need for alternative ovarian cancer screening methods. Although survival rate of up to five years after diagnosis is very high (near one hundred percent), there is still a dire need for alternative methods of screening that are more productive and accurate than the existing methods.
Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis: Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy way to diagnose ovarian cancer. The most reliable method of diagnosis is through a biopsy during surgery. Ovarian cancer is initially diagnosed when a lump is found on or in, either one or both of the ovaries during a pelvic exam. The diagnosis of ovarian cancer is confirmed through surgery on the stomach. The surgeon makes an incision to the stomach and any tumors found are sampled and sent to a lab for further analysis. Here, Laboratory specialists can study the sample and determine if cancerous cells are present .Another common method used to diagnose ovarian cancer is the CA 125 blood test.
The CA 125 blood test is used to evaluate the level of a specific antigen in the patient's blood. The CA 125 is supposed to tell how advanced the ovarian cancer is in the patient. Almost all of ovarian cancer patients have this specific antigen present in their blood and this is why the CA 125 blood test is supposed to be useful. Many health care providers advocate against this test because it can produce false results. This is true with both the negative and positive results that the CA 125 produces. If a women is ovulating or pregnant, the CA 125 blood test might come back with a false positive result. Also, the test might result as negative if ovarian cancer is in it's early stages. This is why the results of the CA 125 blood test are often not trusted as a primary method of ovarian cancer screening.
Many times ovarian cancer will be diagnosed through an ultrasound. There are two different types of ultrasounds used for ovarian cancer diagnosis. They are the abdominal ultrasound and transvaginal ultrasound. These ultrasounds are used to check if the ovaries are the average size, if the composition of the ovaries are normal, and to see if there are any cysts present in the ovaries.

An ovarian cancer diagnosis is usually determined by a combination of these methods. It is rare that only a blood test or an ultrasound will diagnose the disease alone.

| CA 125 Blood Test | Ultrasound |

Ovarian Cancer Stages: Ovarian cancer is staged based on the AJCC/TNM System. The main purpose of this system is to measure the size of the tumor and to determine whether or not metastasis has occurred. Staging in ovarian cancer is primarily determined through surgery. For the TNM system, each letter indicates a different aspect of the disease. A number will be added to each letter, which identifies the severity of the stage (1 being the least severe and 3 being the most severe). In the TNM system, the "T" stands for tumor; the "N" stands for nodes, as in lymph nodes; and the "M" stands for metastasis. Metastasis means that the cancer has grown from where it originated to another organ of the body. Once metastasis has occurred, it is not possible to remove the cancer through surgery.
If ovarian cancer is in stage T1, this means that the cancer is only in one or both of the ovaries. T2 indicates that the cancer is still in either one or both of the ovaries, but has spread to surrounding tissue within the pelvis. T3 means that the cancer, while still in the ovaries, has spread to areas in the abdominal lining, immediately outside the pelvis.
Once the cancer has been classified under one of the stages, it can be diagnosed and the health care provider can give a more accurate prognosis.
Ovarian Cancer Treatment: Ovarian cancer can be treated by chemotherapy or surgery. Many times, health care providers will use both in order to completely remove the cancer. Chemotherapy is administered either when the cancer is still in it's early stages and small in size, or to shrink the cancer, making it smaller and easier to remove through surgery. Chemotherapy drugs can be given to the patient intravenously or in pill form. These drugs kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs cause many negative side effects, such as hair and weight loss. These side effects occur because the drugs kill productive cells along with the cancer cells.
If the patient's doctor feels that the ovarian cancer is small enough, he or she might decide to remove it through one of the various types of ovarian cancer surgeries. IN many cases, chemotherapy drugs are given to the patient to make the cancer as small as possible. This will make the surgery quicker, easier and more productive. A total hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus, including the cervix. The uterus and cervix can be removed in two ways, through an incision in the abdomen or through the vagina. The bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that removes both of the ovaries as well as the fallopian tubes. Unilateral salpingo-oopherectomy is used to remove only one ovary and one fallopian tube. The surgical procedure identified as an omentectomy is the removal of omentum. A lymph node biopsy is the removal of a portion or the whole lymph node. After it is removed, a pathologist will examine it through a microscope to see if any cancer cells are present

| Ovarian Cancer Surgery | Ovarian Cancer Chemotherapy |

Ovarian Cancer Prognosis: An ovarian cancer prognosis will help women diagnosed with the disease understand better about what to expect, what their treatment options are, and what decisions they should make to plan their quality of life. The ovarian cancer prognosis is basically a medical opinion of a doctor who will make a prediction of the most likely outcome of the disease. The prognosis will explain the likely outcome of the treatment along with the chances of the disease returning. While the doctor giving the ovarian cancer prognosis might be experienced with ovarian cancer and treatment for the disease, the prognosis is only a prediction and might not be fully accurate. Factors that can affect the prognosis are what stage the ovarian cancer is in, the age of the patient, their personal and family medical history, as well as their lifestyle and diet.
Ovarian Cancer Survival Rate: Ovarian cancer survival rate is measured by up to 5 years after the cancer is discovered. This system of survival rate focuses on people who survive the cancer after 5 years. Ovarian cancer survival rate statistics differ depending on whether the cancer is invasive or in low malignant form. For cases of invasive ovarian cancer, the survival rate ranges from eighty to ninety four percent during stage one; fifty seven to seventy six percent in stage two; thirty four to forty five percent in stage three; and only about eighteen percent during stage four of the disease. Low malignant forms of ovarian cancer have shown to have a higher survival rate. The survival rate is about ninety nine percent during stage one; ninety eight percent in stage two; ninety six percent in stage three; and seventy seven percent in stage four of the disease.
Ovarian Cancer Statistics: In the United States, Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths, among women. Although there are several different forms of cancer in the female reproductive system, ovarian cancer is the most dangerous. Among all race and ethnic backgrounds, Caucasian women suffer from the highest incidence rate of ovarian cancer. Last year, an estimated 19,800 females developed ovarian cancer, while over 14,000 women died from the disease. Although these numbers may appear high, the incidence rate has significantly decreased over the past years, due to the awareness and funds raised for the disease. In 2009 alone, over $2.2 billion was spent on research and treatment for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness: The best way to continue ovarian cancer research and develop more productive and alternative methods of treating the disease is to spread awareness about its dangers, risk factors, and encourage people to be screened; especially those at a high risk of developing it. Ovarian cancer awareness helps spread knowledge about the disease and can result in saving many more lives every year. There are many ways to raise awareness for the disease and more doctors, ovarian cancer patients, and loved ones of those patients continue to partake in ovarian cancer awareness each year. Organizations that advocate for awareness of ovarian cancer raise money by selling items like bracelets or give out ribbons in exchange for donations. The money raised this way is put towards ovarian cancer research. This research helps health care providers understand more about the disease and provides alternative prevention and treatment methods.

| Ovarian Cancer Ribbon | Ovarian Cancer Bracelet | Ovarian Cancer Research Fund |

Ovarian Cancer Research: Current ovarian cancer research has been covering all aspects of the disease, including risks, causes of the disease, early detection, ways to prevent the disease, diagnosis and of coarse, treatment. While there have been important advancements in recent years in regards to ovarian cancer research, there is still a dire need for alternative methods of treatment, prevention and most importantly, an ultimate cure. The continuous research is possible mostly because of the raised awareness in the public about the disease.
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