Women have two ovaries, of which one ovary is present on each side of the uterus in the pelvic region. The ovaries are responsible for producing eggs or ova. The female hormones namely estrogen and progesterone are also secreted by the ovaries. Different types of tumors can start in the ovaries. Some of these are benign or non-cancerous. The benign tumors do not spread anywhere beyond the ovaries. The benign tumors are treated by surgically taking out either one of the ovaries or the part of the ovary that has the tumor.
The other types of tumors that start in the ovaries are cancerous or malignant. Cancerous tumors have a tendency of spreading to the other body parts.
Types of Ovarian Cancer
There are different types of ovarian cancers depending upon the type of cells from which they originate. The different types of ovarian cancers are listed below:
- Epithelial Tumors: The tumors that begin in the cells covering the outer surface of the ovaries are known as epithelial tumors. The epithelial tumors can be benign, low malignant potential, and malignant. Benign epithelial tumors are non-cancerous and do not lead to a serious illness. Low malignant potential tumor, is also known as borderline epithelial ovarian cancer. It generally affects women at a younger age and is not life-threatening. Malignant epithelial ovarian tumors are the most common forms of ovarian cancers. They are also referred to as invasive epithelial ovarian carcinoma.
- Germ cell tumors: The germ cell tumors begin in the cells that produce the eggs.
- Stromal tumors: Stromal tumors start in the cells that are responsible for holding the ovaries together and for secreting the female hormones, progesterone and estrogen.
Risk Factors For Ovarian Cancer
The high risk factors for developing ovarian cancer are listed below:
- Increasing age
- After menopause
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Specific family genetic cancer syndrome
- Breast cancer
The factors that are linked to a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer are listed below:
- Breast feeding
- Birth control pills
- Low fat diet
- Removal of uterus
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are difficult to interpret, especially during the initial stages as they are quite similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and pre-menstrual syndrome.
The three most common symptoms exhibited by women suffering from ovarian cancer are:
- Continuous bloating and increased size of the abdomen
- Continuous abdominal and pelvic pain
- A feeling of nausea and difficult in eating (feeling full very quickly)
Stages of Ovarian Cancer
Normally after ovarian cancer has been diagnosed, it is given a stage which describes its size and spread. The common stages used for classifying ovarian cancer are listed below:
- Stage 1: At stage 1, the cancer is limited to only one or both the ovaries.
- Stage 2: At this stage, the cancer has spread to the pelvis or the womb from the ovaries.
- Stage 3: By this stage, the cancer has spread to the lining of the abdomen, lymph nodes, and the surface of the bowel.
- Stage 4: By this stage, the cancer has spread to other body organs such as the liver, spleen, or the lungs.