Ovarian cancer cells grow and multiply in the ovaries without the normal controls typical of healthy cells. These out of control cells form a tumor depriving healthy surrounding cells of needed oxygen and nutrients for survival and maximum function.
An ovarian tumor can be in just one or in both of the ovaries. Not all tumors are malignant, but if they are malignant that means that they can spread to other organs and tissues of the body which is a process called metastasis.
Ovarian Cancer Types
There are 4 types of ovarian cancers: Epithelial tumors, stromal tumors, germ cell tumors and metastatic tumors.
While testing for ovarian cancer other cell masses can be discovered that are non-cancerous such as abscesses, infections, fibroids, cysts, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis related masses, and also ectopic pregnancies.
Roughly 80% of all ovarian cancers are epithelial in nature and are the most commonly found in menopausal women.
Stromal tumors occur in 10% of the ovarian cancer cases. Surgical removal of the affected ovary is usually all the treatment that is needed unless the cancer has spread.
Tumors that develop from the cells that develop into the ova (the woman’s eggs) develop into germ cell tumors. This type of ovarian cancer usually results in infertility in the woman.
Usually only 5% of ovarian cancers will spread to other body parts but when they do spread most of the time the cancer spreads to the colon, breast, stomach or pancreas.
If a woman’s mother, sister or daughter has ovarian cancer than she has a 5% risk of getting it too. If she has two close relatives (mother, sister, daughter) with ovarian cancer she then has a 50%.
There are many risk factors a woman may have for ovarian cancer besides family history including exposure to asbestos, exposure of the genitals to talc, certain virus exposure like that of mumps, being of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, or of European (white) heritage, having used fertility drugs without a successful pregnancy, age greater than 50 years and women who have never had any children.
Treatment for ovarian cancer consists of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. There is local therapy, which consists of surgery and radiation therapy. The local treatment removes or destroys the cancer. Local therapy can be used to destroy cancer in specific body parts.
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy uses a thin tube to deliver the chemotherapy to the abdomen and pelvis.
Systemic chemotherapy is used to destroy or control cancer throughout the body and is administered by mouth or injected into a vein.
Side effects are common no matter which type of treatment is used because the treatments destroy not just the cancer cells but healthy cells as well. The severity and kind of side effect will depend on the treatment and on the length of treatment. Not everyone receiving the same treatment will experience the same side effects.