ovarian cancer

Malignant tumour of the ovaries.

Risk factors include early age of first menstruation (before age 12), late onset of menopause (after age 52), absence of pregnancy, presence of specific genetic mutations, use of fertility drugs, and personal history of breast cancer. Symptoms such as abdominal swelling, pelvic pressure or pain, and unusual vaginal bleeding often do not appear until ovarian cancer is advanced. Surgery, sometimes followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy, is an effective treatment for most ovarian cancers.

* * *

Introduction

      a disease characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in the ovaries (ovary), the internal reproductive organs that produce the ova, or egg cells, in women. Most ovarian cancers begin in the outer layer of the ovaries, although some cancers develop from the connective tissue that holds the ovary together or from the cells that serve as precursors for eggs.

Causes and symptoms
      Ovarian cancer does not appear to arise directly from inherited genetic mutations, though certain specific acquired mutations in several genes have been linked to the disease. In addition, various nongenetic factors have been identified that increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The most commonly identified factor is long-term exposure to elevated estrogen levels; other factors include early age of first menstruation (prior to 12 years), late onset of menopause (after age 52), and absence of pregnancy. The presence of specific mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 also increases a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer, as does the use of fertility drugs or a personal history of breast cancer.

      Symptoms of ovarian cancer often do not appear until the cancer has progressed to advanced stages. These symptoms may include abdominal swelling, pelvic pressure, gas, bloating, stomach or leg pain, or unusual vaginal bleeding.

Diagnosis and prognosis
      Diagnosis of ovarian cancer begins with a thorough physical examination, including a pelvic exam. On rare occasions a Pap smear may detect an early ovarian tumour, but this test is far more accurate at detecting early cervical cancers (cervical cancer). A blood test for a molecule called CA-125 may also be used to detect cancer, but several different cancers and other less-serious disorders can also cause elevated CA-125 levels. Ovarian tumours may be detected by means of imaging (diagnostic imaging) procedures such as traditional X rays, computed tomography (computerized axial tomography) (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (diagnosis) (MRI), or ultrasound (diagnosis), but only a biopsy can ascertain diagnosis.

      Once ovarian cancer has been diagnosed, its stage is determined. The stage is an indicator of how far the cancer has progressed. Stage I cancers are confined within one or both ovaries, whereas stage II ovarian cancer has spread to nearby organs such as the oviducts (fallopian tubes), uterus, bladder, colon, or rectum. Stage III cancers have metastasized farther, either to the abdominal lining or to nearby lymph nodes. Stage IV cancers have spread to distant organs.

      The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is extremely high when the cancer is diagnosed and treated early, and patients who reach this point often go on to live long, healthy lives. However, the rate for all stages combined is under 50 percent, and stage IV ovarian cancer has a very low long-term rate of survival.

Treatment (therapeutics)
      Surgery is an effective treatment for most ovarian cancers. Removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) is the most common surgical procedure. The fallopian tubes may also be removed if necessary. Some cases require a simple hysterectomy to remove the uterus and cervix, while others require a radical hysterectomy to also remove the underlying connective tissue (parametrium) and ligaments along with the upper portion of the vagina. Lymph nodes may also be removed during surgery. Surgical removal of the ovaries is a serious surgery that, in addition to resulting in infertility, will also cause women immediately to go into menopause. This is not a problem in many cases, however, as ovarian cancer usually strikes after menopause.

       radiation therapy is rarely the primary treatment for ovarian cancer, although it is sometimes used in conjunction with surgery. External beam radiation resembles traditional X rays in that the radiation is directed from outside the body toward an internal target tissue. Implanted radioactive rods or pellets may also be used to focus the radiation on the cancer and greatly reduce side effects. Side effects of pelvic radiation therapy may include diarrhea, fatigue, skin irritation, premature menopause, bladder irritation, or a narrowing of the vagina due to the buildup of scar tissue. chemotherapy is generally the preferred treatment when the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries, but it may also be used following surgery. In chemotherapy, chemicals are employed that destroy cancerous cells in the body. However, these compounds also attack normal cells to varying degrees and therefore often produce serious side effects such as vomiting, fatigue, mouth or vaginal sores, immune suppression, and hair loss. One option for reducing these side effects is the application of the chemotherapeutic agent directly into the body cavity. This so-called intraperitoneal chemotherapy allows the physician to target the drugs more directly to the cancer while limiting exposure of distant tissues. However, once a cancer has spread, general or systemic approaches such as chemotherapy are required so that as many cancerous cells as possible can be sought out and destroyed.

Prevention (preventive medicine)
      Women who take oral contraceptives (birth control pills) over the long term are at a decreased risk of developing ovarian cancer, as are women who have had a hysterectomy or tubal ligation following pregnancy. Pregnancy itself also decreases ovarian cancer risk, as does breast feeding. Women who are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer can also be screened for known mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The presence of these mutations indicates a higher-than-normal probability that a woman will develop ovarian or breast cancer. In such cases, regular screening by sonography or CA-125 testing may be in order so that developing cancers can be caught at an early stage.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ovarian cancer — Cancer that forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the… …   English dictionary of cancer terms

  • Ovarian cancer — (human) Classification and external resources Micrograph of a low malignant potential mucinous ovarian tumour. H E stain. ICD 10 …   Wikipedia

  • ovarian cancer — a malignant tumour of the ovary, usually a carcinoma. Because of its wide ranging pathology and an imperfect understanding of its causes, ovarian cancer is not readily detected in the early stages of development, when the tumour is small and… …   Medical dictionary

  • ovarian cancer — a malignant tumour of the ovary, usually a carcinoma. Because of its wide ranging pathology and an imperfect understanding of its causes, ovarian cancer is not readily detected in the early stages of development, when the tumour is small and… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • Ovarian Cancer National Alliance — Founded 1997 Location Washington, DC Key people Karen Orloff Kaplan, MSW, MPH,ScD (Chief Executive Officer), Christy Schmidt (Board President) Focus To advance the interests of women with ovarian cancer Website …   Wikipedia

  • epithelial ovarian cancer — Cancer that occurs in the cells on the surface of the ovary. Also called ovarian epithelial cancer …   English dictionary of cancer terms

  • stage I ovarian cancer — Cancer is found in one or both of the ovaries and has not spread. Stage I is divided into stage IA, stage IB, and stage IC. In stage IA, cancer is found in a single ovary. In stage IB, cancer is found in both ovaries. In stage IC, cancer is found …   English dictionary of cancer terms

  • stage II ovarian cancer — Cancer is found in one or both ovaries and has spread into other areas of the pelvis. Stage II is divided into stage IIA, stage IIB, and stage IIC. In stage IIA, cancer has spread to the uterus and/or the fallopian tubes. In stage IIB, cancer has …   English dictionary of cancer terms

  • stage III ovarian cancer — Cancer is found in one or both ovaries and has spread to other parts of the abdomen. Stage III is divided into stage IIIA, stage IIIB, and stage IIIC. In stage IIIA, the tumor is found in the pelvis only, but cancer cells have spread to the… …   English dictionary of cancer terms

  • stage IV ovarian cancer — Cancer is found in one or both ovaries and has metastasized (spread) beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body. Cancer that is found in tissues of the liver is considered stage IV disease …   English dictionary of cancer terms


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.