Ovaries are the small almond shaped glands that attach to the uterus via the fallopian tubes. They produce eggs and hormones.
According to the American Cancer Society, a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 71. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2008 there will be 21,250 new cases diagnosed and 15,520 deaths.
Most Ovarian Cancer develops from:
Epithelial Cells: surface cells covering the ovary, the most commonly diagnosed ovarian cancer
Germ Cells: the egg producing cells
While the cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, it is known what may reduce or increase your risk.
Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors:
- Your risk of getting ovarian cancer is reduced if you have had a hysterectomy or a tubal ligation (fallopian tubes are ‘tied’)
- Your risk is lower if you have had children, and lower with each pregnancy
- Women who have breast fed have a lower risk
- Women who take birth control pills have a lower risk
- The use of male hormones to treat endometriosis may increase your risk
- Obesity may increase your risk
- A family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer increases your risk
- A personal history of breast cancer increases your risk
- Use of estrogen therapy alone may increase your risk
- Most ovarian cancers occur in women who are in menopause.
Please visit the American Cancer Society site for a complete discussion of these risk factors.
Ovarian cancer may be detected with a pelvic exam. By that time it may be advanced. Women with high risk factors and a family history should be extra diligent to maintain routine gynecologic exams and be very observant for possible symptoms.
Symptoms May Include:
Simple acronyms shared by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance are:
B for Bloating
P for Pelvic or abdominal Pain
D for Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
U for Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
It’s obvious these symptoms may be indicative of other diseases. Per the American Cancer Society, “If you have symptoms that you can’t explain nearly every day for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor right away. “
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 (or Breast Cancer 1 and 2) genes are responsible for many cases of familial ovarian cancer and familial breast cancer. Women with a familial link to ovarian cancer should consult their physicians about this test. Source: The Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.
As part of diagnosis, your physician may order a blood test. A CA-125 will show higher levels in women who have ovarian cancer. Other tests may include various radiographic imaging exams and possibly a biopsy, colonoscopy and or laparoscopy.
Currently a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the modalities for ovarian cancer treatment. Early diagnosis is the key.
For up-to-date treatment options for ovarian cancer see the National Cancer Institute pages which includes information on antiogenisis, the process of reducing the blood supply to tumors.
Ovarian Cancer Initiatives and Resources:
One of the strongest voices in the battle against ovarian cancer is the The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Their National Agenda has three initiatives:
1. Advance Ovarian Cancer Research
2. Improve Health Care Practice for Ovarian Cancer, and
3. Expand the National Advocacy Movement for Ovarian Cancer
February 13, 2008, a Yale University Phase II clinical trial released the following information: ” Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have developed a blood test with enough sensitivity and specificity to detect early stage ovarian cancer with 99 percent accuracy. ”
For more information on clinical trials for ovarian cancer see the American Cancer Society Clinical Trials Matching Service, the National Cancer Institute or The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Clinicial Trials Matching Service.
The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) offers support and advocacy. Upcoming classes include: 2008 Ovarian Cancer Survivors Course.
Ovarian Cancer Canada, and the Winners Walk of Hope: ” Join thousands of people in 14 cities across Canada on Sunday, September 7th to help commemorate September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.”
Conversations! The International Newsletter for those Fighting Ovarian Cancer.
SHARE: Self-help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer: hotlines, support groups, education and advocacy.
A Guide to Survivorship for Women With Ovarian Cancer by F. J. Montz, Robert E. Bristow, and Paula J. Anastasia (2005)
It’s My Ovaries, Stupid! by Elizabeth Lee Vliet (2003)
Tomorrow is your last day–comment on any blog post through Friday May 9th, for a chance to win a free pound of Bald Lady coffee.