Cancer Support Group

Wednesday, Apr 14th

Last update:06:42:40 AM GMT

Ovarian Cancer FAQs

What are the ovaries?
The ovaries are female reproductive organs. There is one small, almond–shaped ovary on each side of the uterus. An ovary releases an egg every month in a woman who is still having her period. The ovaries also make most of the female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. These hormones control the development of certain parts of a female, like the breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also control the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer grows from cells within the ovaries. However, not all tumors found in the ovaries are cancerous.

How do you know if you have ovarian cancer?
This is something that needs to be diagnosed by your doctor. If you are having pain or cramping, your doctor may set you up for a sonogram to check for cysts or a mass. Ovarian cysts are very common and are seldom cancerous.

Who is at risk for ovarian cancer?
Here are some of the possible risks for ovarian cancer
  • Having 2 or more close relatives who have had ovarian or breast cancer
  • Having had previous breast or colon cancer
  • Being older than age 60
  • Never having been pregnant
  • Having a condition called endometriosis, in which tissue from the uterus grows outside the uterus in other places in the body
  • Obesity
  • Having used talcum powder on the genital area in the past.
  • Using estrogen replacement therapy for more than 10 years.
What can a woman do to decrease her risk of ovarian cancer?
Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as family history and age. But others can be. For instance, taking these actions may decrease a woman’s risk.
  • Controlling weight
  • Using birth control pills for several years
  • Having the fallopian tubes tied, called tubal ligation
  • Having the uterus removed, called hysterectomy
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Some of the possible symptoms of ovarian cancer
  • Back pain
  • Abdominal discomfort or swelling
  • Pelvic pain
  • Loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, gas, or fullness even after eating small meals
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Changes in urination
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or frequent urination
  • Vaginal bleeding or irregular periods
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
What are the treatments for ovarian cancer?
The treatments for ovarian cancer depend on the type of cancer and its stage. Surgery is used to treat all stages of ovarian cancer. In early stages of ovarian cancer before it has spread far, surgery may be the only treatment. The doctor may take out all the reproductive organs or in some cases just the ovary. For later stages, when the cancer has spread, doctors use both chemotherapy and surgery.

What are the types of ovarian cancer?
Following are the main types of ovarian cancer
  • Epithelial carcinoma is the most common kind of ovarian tumor.This tumor starts in the epithelium, which is the outer layer of cells in the ovaries.
  • Germ cell cancer starts in the cells that form eggs in the ovary.
  • Stromal cell cancer starts in the stromal cells. These cells make up the connective tissue, which holds the ovaries together.

How do doctors diagnose ovarian cancer?
The doctor will ask about her medical and family history and perform a physical exam, which includes a pelvic exam. The doctor feels the vagina, rectum, and lower abdomen for lumps. The history and physical examination alone cannot tell if a lump is ovarian cancer. Therefore, if a woman has a lump, she will need more tests such as those below.
  • Transvaginal Ultrasound
  • CA 125 Blood test
  • Biopsy


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