Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that originates from abnormal ovarian cells. It is the fifth most common type of cancer that affects Filipino women and a higher risk for this disease is detected among women aged ≥ 40.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Similarly with other types of cancer, there is no way to know for sure if a person will get ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer starts off from abnormal ovarian cells that go through uncontrolled growth until it develops into the disease that affects the reproductive system of women. 

 

Anyone with ovaries can get ovarian cancer and the risk for developing it increases with age. Other risk factors include:

  • Have close family members who have had ovarian cancer
    • This disease can run in the family and having a relative that has had ovarian cancer before increases the risk of a patient
  • Have a genetic mutation called BRCA1 or BRCA2, or those linked to Lynch syndrome
  • Have had other types of cancer such as breast cancer
    • Since BRCA1 and BRCA2 are also the cause of this disease, having a previous diagnosis of breast cancer may result in having a higher risk for ovarian cancer
  • Have endometriosis, diabetes, or is obese
    • Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of developing many different cancers and it also negatively affects the overall survival of patients with ovarian cancer
  • Are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause
    • Women using estrogen have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who have never used HRT

Ovarian cancer may present with the following signs and symptoms but these may vary per patient. The most common ones are listed below:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Feeling full too quickly, or trouble eating
  • More frequent or urgent need to urinate

These four are commonly caused by other benign diseases and cancers but when they are caused by ovarian cancer, they are more persistent and severe. If these are experienced more than 12 times a month, it would be wise to see a doctor to determine the cause.

 

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Heavier or irregular bleeding during menstruation

Since the risk for ovarian cancer increases with age, regular screening for the disease should be done starting at age 40. Some screening tests that doctors do are rectovaginal pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and CA-125 blood tests. CT scans and different kinds of x-rays can also be done to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

 

Treatment for a patient diagnosed with ovarian cancer includes surgery to remove the cancer tissue, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill fast-growing cancer cells while radiotherapy uses radiation. Aggressive chemotherapy is usually more effective after the surgery since it is used to kill small amounts of cancer cells that may remain after surgery. 

 

Less common treatments for ovarian cancer are hormone therapy and targeted drug therapy. As the name suggests, the first one uses hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to fight cancer. Targeted drug therapy, on the other hand, uses drugs to identify and attack cancer cells while doing little damage to normal cells. 

There is no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer but it would be best to avoid the risk factors mentioned above. For example, lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise could prevent obesity and decrease a person’s risk for the disease. Earlier screening is also recommended for women who have family members who have had ovarian cancer since they could have inherited the mutation that causes this disease.

https://doh.gov.ph/Health-Advisory/Ovarian-Cancer 

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer.html 

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/index.htm 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ovarian-cancer/causes/ 

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/symptoms.htm 

Last Updated: February 21, 2024