Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
ABOUT OVARIAN CANCER
Ovarian cancer begins in an ovary. The ovaries are made up of 3 main kinds of cells. Each type of cell can develop into a different type of tumor.
(a) EPITHELIAL TUMORS start from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary. Most ovarian tumors are epithelial cell tumors.
(b) GERM CELL TUMORS start from the cells that produce the eggs (ova).
(c) STROMAL TUMORS start from structural tissue cells that hold the ovary together and produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
The most common symptoms include (a) Swelling of the stomach or bloating caused by a build-up of fluid or a tumor, (b) Pelvic or abdominal pain, (c) Feeling full quickly or trouble eating, (d) Having to urinate often or feeling as if you have to go right away. Other symptoms can include tiredness, an upset stomach, back pain, pain during sex, constipation, menstrual changes and abdominal swelling with weight loss, These symptoms mimic those of other conditions as well, hence it is important to consult with a doctor if symptoms persist.
Factors linked to an increase in ovarian cancer risk include increasing age, obesity, menopause & family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancers.
Finding the cancer early improves the chances that it can be treated with success. Unfortunately, only about 1 in 5 ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. The best way to find ovarian cancer is to have regular women’s health exams and to see the doctor if symptoms persist.
Keep Breast Self Exams simple, with these 2 instructions:
1. Once a month in the shower, while applying soap, feel your breasts and look into the mirror to get familiar with what is normal for you.
2. If you find anything new that you didn’t feel before, like a lump, nipple discharge, skin changes etc.; seek specialist consultation.
The main treatments for ovarian cancer are Surgery, Chemotherapy, Targeted therapy & Radiation therapy. Some early cancers may be treated with surgery alone, but most patients are treated with surgery & chemotherapy. Patients with advanced cancers may be treated with chemotherapy without surgery.
A diagnosis of any cancer is accompanied with an emotional and mental trauma for both the patient and the caregiver. There is shock and disbelief over the diagnosis. There is a feeling of being pushed into treatment without adequate time to adjust and accept the diagnosis. The patient needs to cope with the side effects of the treatment whether surgical, radiation or chemotherapy; and accept some of its long term and irreversible side effects.
“For someone who hasn't had a history of cancer in the family, I must say it came as a total shock to me - a bolt out of the blue. It's something that happens to others only, not me. It's like you want to wake up from a bad dream. Moreover I hadn't personally known anyone who had cancer and so hadn't any idea what to expect, except that I would lose my hair and probably my life and that it was a dreadful disease.
I was 32 years and married with two kids aged 5 and 2. The cancer was at an advanced stage and I was told I had barely few weeks left, but God had other plans and I believe He worked a miracle in my life thru the Prayers, Love and support of my family, friends and total strangers!
Going through the surgery and the chemotherapy was very difficult for me, but my Onco-Surgeon was just great. He was dedicated to his job and never fail to come and check on me daily, whether he was busy or not and I remember I would just long for his visit and it would make me feel so much better. Also the nurses were kind and helpful. My husband was my pillar of strength and seeing my two little kids gave me the will and courage to overcome.
I couldn't have gone through this ordeal but for the Grace of God and His Love and Support that I received from all quarters - family, friends and total strangers!
Cancer has definitely changed my outlook on life. I realize that life is precious and we are here on Earth for a purpose. Each day is a Gift from God. My life is not just for me and myself but live so as to make a difference in the lives of others. No place for ego, selfishness, holding on to hurts, bitterness, resentment or unforgiveness but to live a life of Loving & Serving God by Loving and helping others, bringing hope happiness and a smile.
It's been exactly 20 years since and I Praise and Thank God for working in my life”
- Louellà Fernandes, Ovarian Cancer Survivor
LIFE BEYOND CANCER
Even after your active treatment is over, it is crucial to go to all of your follow-up visits, which typically involve a careful physical exam. The visits may also include blood tests, lab tests, x-rays and scans to help look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects.
The genes involved in familial ovarian cancer are being studied. Research is looking at how these genes normally work and how changes can lead to cancer. In the future, this research could lead to finding new drugs to prevent and treat certain types of ovarian cancer. There is also ongoing research on early detection and diagnosis. Many newer treatments for ovarian cancer are being developed, and current treatment methods are being improved. These include chemotherapy, targeted therapies like ‘Avastin’ & immunotherapy, to name a few.
Most women have one or more risk factors for ovarian cancer. If you are at average risk of ovarian cancer, you may be able to lower your risk if you use birth control pills, get your “tubes tied’ (tubal ligation), or have your uterus removed (hysterectomy). However, all of these have risks and side effects, and so generally shouldn’t be used just to lower the risk of ovarian cancer in women who are not high risk. Women at high risk - with a family history of ovarian (or certain other cancers) might want to find out if they have a family cancer syndrome that could increase their risk of ovarian cancer.