What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is cancer that begins in the cells that constitute the ovaries, including surface epithelial cells, germ cells, and the sex cord-stromal cells. Cancer cells that metastasize from other organ sites to the ovary (most commonly breast or colon cancers) are not then considered ovarian cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers among women and ranks fourth as a cause of their deaths from cancer. The American Cancer Society statistics for ovarian cancer estimate that there will be 22,220 new cases and 16,210 deaths in 2005. The death rate for this disease has not changed much in the last 50 years.
Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of women with the common epithelial ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced in stage—i.e., has spread to the upper abdomen (stage III) or beyond (stage IV). The 5-year survival rate for these women is only 15 to 20 percent, whereas the 5-year survival rate for stage I disease patients approaches 90 percent and for stage II disease patients approaches 70 percent.
There are many types of tumors that can start in the ovaries. Some are benign, or noncancerous, and the patient can be cured by surgically removing one ovary or the part of the ovary containing the tumor. Some are malignant or cancerous. The treatment options and the outcome for the patient depend on the type of ovarian cancer and how far it has spread before it is diagnosed.
Ovarian tumors are named according to the type of cells the tumor started from and whether the tumor is benign or cancerous. The three main types of ovarian tumors are:
# Epithelial Tumors
# Germ Cell Tumors
# Stromal Tumors
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages. This is partly due to the fact that these two small, almond shaped organs are deep within the abdominal cavity, one on each side of the uterus. These are some of the potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
· Unexplained change in bowel and/or bladder habits such as constipation urinary frequency, and/or incontinence
· Gastrointestinal upset such as gas, indigestion, and/or nausea
· Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
· Pelvic and/or abdominal pain or discomfort
· Pelvic and/or abdominal bloating or swelling
· A constant feeling of fullness
· Abnormal or postmenopausal bleeding
· Pain during intercourse
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