Ovarian cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the ovaries. Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The ovaries make eggs for reproduction and female hormones. The most common type of ovarian cancer is epithelial. Many of these tumors may grow to be very large without showing symptoms. These tumors can be hard to find during a physical exam. As a result, about 70% of patients are found with advanced disease.
Germ cell tumors come from the reproductive tissue. They account for 20% of tumors. Rarer are stromal cancers. These come from the connective cells of the ovary. They typically make hormones which cause symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer may cause several signs and symptoms. Women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread beyond the ovaries, but even early- stage ovarian cancer can cause them. The most common symptoms include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often)
These symptoms are also commonly caused by benign (non-cancerous) diseases and by cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and represent a change from normal − for example, they occur more often or are more severe. If a woman has these symptoms more than 12 times a month, she should see her doctor, preferably a gynecologist.
Others symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual changes
- Abdominal swelling with weight loss
However, these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions, and most of them occur just about as often in women who don’t have ovarian cancer.
Moore Regional Hospital offers chemotherapy, surgery and support for patients with ovarian cancer.