Ovarian cancer is the type of cancer that occurs in the female reproductive organs, the ovaries. There are many types of ovarian cancer. The three primary types of ovarian cancer are epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell cancer and ovarian stromal cancer.
The epithelial ovarian cancer has six subtypes of its own; the cancer that develops in the serous tissues of the epithelial layer of the ovary is the most common type. Germ cells are the ones that produce the eggs in the ovaries and germ cell cancer is the most rare type of ovarian cancer. However, even that very little percentage of germ cell cancer can turn out to be fatal. Ovarian stromal cancer is also quite rare and develops in the connective tissues holding the ovaries together.
Ovarian cancer has four stages depending on the extent of the growth of the tumour. The stage of the tumour is determined after ovarian cancer has been detected. The cancer is said to be in Stage I if the tumour is restricted to the ovary or at least the fallopian tubes. If the cancer spreads beyond the two ovaries to the uterus and other pelvic organs, it is said to be stage || cancer. The cancer has reached stage ||| if cancerous cells are found in several regions and lymph nodes of the upper abdomen. The cancer is said to be in in its last stage or stage |V if it has spread to the liver, spleen and lungs.
The course of treatment for ovarian cancer depends on the stage the cancer is in along with the general health condition and age of the patients. The primary methods for treatment are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy. Some patients choose to enroll themselves in experimental clinical trials as well, however there is no guarantee to their success.
Surgery is the primary option for treating ovarian cancer as this is the process that is most effective in removing as many cancer cells as possible from the body. The extent of surgery, however, depends primarily on the stage of the cancer. The surgery seeks to remove any visible cancerous mass along with the lymph nodes and the omentum(the layer of fat surrouunding the intestines) as these are the most susceptible to the spread of cancer. In some cases, the cancer has spread so far to all the reproductive organs, like the uterus or fallopian tubes, that the surgeon removes them as well. But such a move has to be discussed with the patient prior to surgery and has to be performed with her consent as the patient may be a young woman interested to start a family and in that case, all reproductive organs cannot be removed from her body.
Chemotherapy is another effective way to treat ovarian cancer that is left in the body even after surgery. The powerful chemicals are usually injected into the body through IV but it may be better if the medications are injected directly into the abdomen in case of ovarian cancer. This makes sure that the cancer-affected part of the body gets in direct contact with the chemicals.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-intensity x-rays to destroy leftover cancer cells in the pelvic region. Targeted therapy is the use of relatively new oral medications or ones that are injected into the body using IV to stop the metastasis of the cancer cells. Another somewhat effective way of dealing with ovarian stromal cancer is hormone therapy in which hormone-blocking medications are injected into the body that prevent the malignant cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
Women who have generally good health conditions are eligible to receive the invasive ovarian cancer treatment.
Ovarian cancer often does not have any symptom in its earliest stage. And even later, there are very generic symptoms like loss of appetite, weight loss and backache. So, it is often diagnosed in women in later stages and women go without any treatment in the initial stages.
The treatment for any form of cancer is as unpleasant as having the consition itself. The surgical removal of cancerous cells carries the general risks that come as a part of the package with any other surgery. Chemotherapy brings its own share of side effects to the table. Some of the side-effects are hair loss, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, lethargy and reduced power of immunity. The side effects subside once chemotherapy stops. Radiation therapy also causes tirednes, skin soreness and loss of hair in the treated area.
All ovarian cancer patients must maintain a strict follow-up regimen with their respective doctors. Patients have to make healthier lifestyle choices after the treatment. Patients can cut down on their tobacco and alcohol intake to reduce the risk of recurrent ovarian cancer. Leading a relatively stress-free lifestyle also goes a long way in keeping an ovarian cancer patient healthy. The treatment for cancer often causes weight loss. But another side effect of the treatment is nausea that makes a patient feel like not eating anything. To deal with these two issues together, a patient can try having small meals 2-3 hours apart throughout the day. Another side effect of the treatment is extreme fatigue. So, patients must discuss with their team of healthcare professionals to come up with a safe lot of activities that will not tire them out and also keep them on on their feet.
Women who undergo ovarian cancer treatment need time to recover both physically and mentally. Surgical patients need at least 4-6 weeks of time before they can return to their normal routine. It has been seen that the road to emotional surgery is sometimes even longer. In a surgery for ovarian cancer, women often need a hysterectomy and get their uteruses removed. Even though the hyterectomy is performed with exclusive consent from the patient, women may find it very difficult to adjust to life without a womb. Even some women in menopause find it very hard to deal with. Most women discover that coming to terms with not having a womb is much more difficult than the physical healing process.
The cost of the treatment depends on the way of treatment being followed. In India, a privately funded medical organisation may charge Rs. 50,000 to Rs.1,50,000 for one cycle of chemotherapy alone. Radiotherapy costs nearly Rs.2,00,000 lakhs in India and a surgery may cost upto Rs. 3,20,000. More often than not, the treatment of ovarian cancer involves a combination of all these. So, the total cost might go up to Rs.10,00,000.
The treatment for ovarian cancer can be effective if the cancer is diagnosed in stage I but there is no guarantee that the cancer won't return. In most women, the cancer returns within 2 years of treatment but it may come back as late as 20 years after initial treatment.
Alternative methods of treatment are only complementary in nature or are adopted as preventive measures or to combat the adverse side-effects of the actual pharmaceutical treatment. Shiitake mushrooms are consumed because these contain lentinan, a beta-glucan that is supposed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Soy products, peppermint tea, red onions are also seemingly packed with anti-cancer elements.
When a mutation occurs in the gametes or germ cells which later becomes sex cells, the mutation is referred to as germline mutation. The germline mutation, in the majority of cases, causes harmful genetic disorders or diseases like ovarian cancer that may have a potential of being passed on to offspring.
Considered to be one of the most lethal forms of all the gynecological malignancies that are there, ovarian cancer is a serious threat that can make people succumb to death. However, with modern genetic drugs being discovered, such as rucaparib and olaparib, treating BRCA germline as well as somatic ovarian cancer has been possible to a great extent. Let’s take a closer look at these anti-cancer drugs here.
What are these drugs used for?
The drug rucaparib is used for treating patients who have had two or more sessions of chemotherapy for adverse somatic or germline BRCA mutation which is associated with ovarian cancer. On the other hand, the drug olaparib is used for patients who are suspected or have cancer due to germline BRCA mutation and have been treated with 3 or more chemotherapies before. These are both indicated as monotherapy.
Are there any side effects?
Patients taking rucaparib or olaparib are not meant to feel side effects. However, based on the duration of the treatment and the severity of the condition sometimes people may experience side effects like constipation, nausea, fatigue, kidney issues, decreased appetite, anemia, etc. The chances of experiencing skin rash, breathlessness, photosensitivity, heartburn and decreased the count of platelets are very less.
Are there any necessary precautions?
Before starting treatments with olaparib or rucaparib, patients are strongly suggested to tell their doctors about other medications they are taking presently, in case there's any. And, also, patients are advised against taking any vaccination or immunization or drugs containing aspirin without consulting their doctors. Both breastfeeding a child and conceiving during the treatment are strongly prohibited.
How do these drugs work?
Just like many other targeted therapies that are there for treating cancer, both rucaparib and olaparib primarily work by killing the malignant or the fast-dividing cells associated with ovarian cancer. However, finding out more about the other features of the cancer cells is also its purpose. The PARP enzymes these two drugs include, induce the formation of the double-stranded DNA complexes which results in the death of the cancer cells.
People having either BRCA1 or BRCA2 germline mutations stands at greater risk of developing certain cancers, such as ovarian cancer or the breast cancer than other people. However, research has shown promising chances of targeted therapies such as the rucaparib or olaparib to play an effective role in treating germline mutations caused cancers. You can always talk to your healthcare professional to know more about these targeted therapies if at risk.
If it runs in your family, you are at risk to get it too. Yes, we are talking about cancer and the debilitating effect that cancer has, on not only the victim but also his/her immediate relatives. However, the idea that this malady is passed on to progeny unquestioningly and runs from generation to generation like a curse is but a myth.
Ovarian Cancer is one of the cancers that affect a woman’s ovaries whereby abnormal cell growth takes place in one of these places: on the tissue within the ovary, on the surface of the ovary, in egg-forming germ cells within the ovary. Studies show that 85% of the patients who had developed Ovarian Cancer had no family record of the disease. Thus it can be attested that one is not compelled to follow the footsteps of the forefathers. Bifurcation is possible and prevention can be accomplished if these guidelines can be followed.
These methods are not fool-proof and do not warrant the elimination of one’s possibility of developing cancer. But like they say it’s better to be safe than sorry. Therefore, maintain a healthy lifestyle and who knows, maybe you will succeed in becoming one of those who eliminate that possibility!
Cancer is that word that many people dread to hear, yet it is a real scourge and can have deadly effects. One such type of cancer is ovarian cancer, which claims countless lives in India every year, yet is not talked about because of social taboos. Because cancer cells are regular cells whose growth is uncontrolled, it is important to know what ovarian cancer is, what causes it, and how to prevent it.
Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovarian cells. Ovaries are the reproductive glands containing eggs, which only women have. Women usually have one ovary on each side, and the ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which is necessary for ovulation and pregnancy to occur. Three different cells comprise the ovaries, all of which can develop cancerous (malignant), and non-cancerous (benign) tumors. The cells covering the ovarian walls are called epithelial cells, which can become cancerous - most types of ovarian cancer are epithelial. Germ cell cancer grows in the cells producing the eggs, and stomural cancer grows in the cells that hold the ovaries together and produce reproductive hormones.
The good news is that in the majority of cases, the tumors are benign and never spread (metastize). These tumors are non cancerous and can easily be removed. Malignant tumors, however, are cancerous. These can, and often times, do spread to other parts of the body (metastize) and can kill the women having them.
A risk factor is any action people take to increase their likelihood of getting a certain type of cancer. With ovarian cancer, age is a big factor, with older women more likely to develop this type of cancer than younger women. Ovarian cases are rare in women under age 40, with the bulk of patients being post-menopausal. About 50% of ovarian cancer cases are in women who are 63 or older.
More obese women (those with a BMI of 30 or higher) are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than skinnier women. Women who had a successful pregnancy before age 26 are less likely to develop ovarian cancer. By contrast, women who had their first kid after age 35, or who have never had children, are more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
Also, while there is no direct correlation, there is thought to be a link between breastfeeding and lower rates of ovarian cancer.
Women who use oral contraceptives have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk lowers dramatically after 3-6 months of using the pills, and remains low long after the pills are taken, or even stopped.
Also, getting a tubal ligation, or having a hysterectomy lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
While there is no known cause of ovarian cancer, certain women carrying the BRCA1 and 2 genes will develop ovarian cancer, so it can be genetic.
Most women only have one risk factor for ovarian cancer, which in itself is not significant. However, since no woman wants to develop this type of potentially deadly cancer, she needs to know how to prevent it. Taking oral contraceptives for a long period of time has been shown to lower the risk of ovarian cancer. Tubal ligation has also shown a decreased risk.
While there is no one magic bullet for completely preventing ovarian cancer, lifestyle choices can definitely mitigate one’s risk of developing this dangerous cancer. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
On each side of the uterus, two ovaries are present. It is the size of an almond and produces ova or eggs in simple terms, along with the release of hormones like oestrogen and progesterone. When a cancerous growth or a tumour grows in the outer lining (epithelium) of the ovary, it is known as ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer occurs in women who are aged above 65 years.
There are three types of tumour
Ovaries are made up of three kinds of cells and each kind is capable of developing different types of tumour.
Some tumours are non-cancerous and never spread beyond the ovary. Cancerous or ovarian tumours that are less malignant can metastasize to other body parts. The signs initially would be mistaken with premenstrual syndrome or poor bowel movement or a bladder problem, but if the problems are persistent then one must get an expert opinion. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected till it spreads within the abdomen or the pelvis.
Causes of ovarian cancer
Cancer develops when the cells of the body divide and multiplies in an unregulated manner. Mutations that are genetic like BRCA1 and BRCA2 can be the cause often or if an individual is diagnosed with any other type of cancer before like breast, colon or uterine. There is a higher risk of being affected by this type of cancer if the person had undergone fertility treatment or is suffering from infertility. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is another cause of this type of cancer. Experts say that longer the HRT, higher the risk. Women who are obese or are overweight has more chances of being affected. Endometriosis or the disorder in which the growth of the tissue occurs outside the uterus, in such a case the risk is 30% higher.
The signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer differ from one woman to another. Some of the symptoms given below might as well be non-cancerous because since the ovaries are situated near the intestines and bladder, it might be often mistaken to be symptoms of gastrointestinal issues. It is advisable to consult a doctor if the symptoms are persistent.
Symptoms that occur at an early stage
Pelvic pain, Abdomen pain, Indigestion issues, Loss of appetite, Painful sexual intercourse, and Changed bowel movement are a few of the symptoms that occur during the early stages of the development of an Ovarian cancer.
Signs at a progressive stage
Loss of weight, Fatigue, Short of breath, and Nausea are the predominant symptoms when the Ovarian cancer has progressed more. Early diagnosis may lead to complete cure
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to that of ovarian cysts. These ovarian cysts are often non-malignant but women with such cysts have a higher risk of being affected by cancer. Ovarian cancer can begin silently and are often detected at a later stage. Thus any individual undergoing these symptoms can avail medical assistance for further diagnosis. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
As we make many advances in the medical field, it can be safely estimated that almost one-third of cancers are avertable. This holds true for gynaecologic cancers and cervical cancer as well. With proper care and by making important lifestyle changes, these cancers can be prevented at an early stage, thus improving the longevity of a healthy person’s life.
Let us take a look at some of the cancer prevention and detection in the field of gynecology.
There are many screening programs and vaccination procedures where the cancerous cells can be safely eradicated. Awareness is extremely crucial for all types of cancer and gynaecological cancers are no different either. Get periodic health check-ups as a part of your routine and seek medical attention immediately in case of any abnormalities.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!