Updated May 20th, 2024 at 22:12 IST

Understanding Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Options

While ovarian cancer predominantly affects women aged 50 to 65, it can also occur in younger or older individuals and may have a familial link.

ovarian cancer | Image:Pexels
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Ovarian cancer arises when healthy ovarian cells mutate and proliferate uncontrollably. It is the third most common cancer among women in India, with around 50,000 new cases diagnosed annually. While it predominantly affects women aged 50 to 65, it can also occur in younger or older individuals and may have a familial link.

Ovarian cancer symptoms

Early symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle and nonspecific. They can include pelvic or abdominal discomfort, bloating, abdominal swelling, reduced appetite, feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms such as increased frequency or urgency. These symptoms are common and can be caused by various non-cancerous conditions. However, persistent or worsening symptoms should prompt a consultation with a healthcare provider.

Image credit: Unsplash
Image credit: Unsplash

Diagnosing ovarian cancer

When ovarian cancer is suspected due to symptoms or abnormal physical findings, imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI of the abdomen and pelvis are typically recommended. Additionally, a blood test measuring CA 125 levels may be performed, particularly if levels are elevated post-menopause or significantly high pre-menopause. Elevated CA 125 can raise suspicion and support the decision to proceed with diagnostic surgery. The definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer requires a surgical biopsy, where a physician removes the ovary and examines the tissue under a microscope. If cancer is detected, the surgeon will often continue to remove as much of the cancer as possible during the same operation.

Stages of ovarian cancer

Early Stage (Stages I and II): Cancer is confined to the ovaries or has spread to nearby pelvic structures.

Advanced Stage (Stages III and IV): Cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.

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Treatment options for ovarian cancer

Treatment usually begins with surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. The treatment plan is largely dependent on the cancer stage and the patient's overall health. Post-surgery, some patients might not need further treatment, while others may require chemotherapy and maintenance therapy to prevent recurrence.

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Post-treatment care

Following treatment, regular follow-up care is essential to monitor for cancer recurrence. This typically includes imaging scans, physical examinations, and blood tests. If the cancer recurs or spreads, additional surgery or chemotherapy may be necessary.

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Ovarian cancer screening

Screening aims to detect cancer early in asymptomatic individuals. However, no definitive screening test for ovarian cancer exists. Commonly used methods include abdominal ultrasound scans and CA-125 blood tests.

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Receiving an ovarian cancer diagnosis can be daunting, but effective treatments are available. Healthcare teams work closely with patients to develop personalized care plans, and many survivors successfully overcome the disease. Support and resources are available to assist patients throughout their journey.

 

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Published May 20th, 2024 at 22:12 IST