Ovarian Cancer

  • Overview


    Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumour in one or both ovaries. Some cases of ovarian cancer may form in the fallopian tube and spread to the ovary.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/2360/b1000/ovarian-cancer-27/what-is-ovarian-cancer/?pp=33770&cc=9561&ct=20

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Types of ovarian cancer


    There are many types of ovarian cancer. The three most common types are:

    Epithelial ovarian cancers

    The majority of women with ovarian cancer have cancer that starts in the surface of the ovary (epithelium). Types of epithelial ovarian cancer include serous, clear cell, endometrioid and mucinous cancers.

    Germ cell ovarian cancers

    About 4% of women have these rare types of cancer, which start in the egg-producing cells. Germ cell cancers usually affect women aged around 35.

    Sex-cord stromal cancers

    Rare tumours may develop in the cells that produce female hormones. These cancers can occur at any age, and may produce extra hormones, such as oestrogen. They generally respond very well to treatment.

    Some women (usually younger women) are diagnosed with a borderline tumour. This is not considered to be cancer because, although it can spread, it does not invade other organs. For this reason borderline tumours are called low malignant potential tumours and usually have a good prognosis.

    Symptoms


    Ovarian cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages, or it may cause only vague ones that are hard to recognise. If symptoms occur, they may include:

    • a swollen, bloated abdomen
    • pressure, discomfort or pain in the abdomen or pelvis
    • heartburn and nausea
    • changes in toilet habits (e.g. constipation, diarrhoea, frequent urination due to pressure, increased flatulence)
    • tiredness and loss of appetite
    • unexplained weight loss or weight gain
    • changes in your menstrual pattern or postmenopausal bleeding
    • or pain during sex.

    If these symptoms are new for you or continue over a four-week period, make an appointment with your general practitioner (GP). Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have cancer, but it is best to have a check-up


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/73655/b1000/ovarian-cancer-27/ovarian-cancer-symptoms/?pp=33775&cc=9541&&ct=20

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Diagnosis


    Most ovarian cancer tumours are present for some time before they are discovered. Sometimes ovarian cancer is found unexpectedly during an operation such as a hysterectomy.

    The Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer, but it may show if cancer cells have spread to the cervix.

    • Physical Examination
    • Blood tests
    • Imaging scans
  • Surgery


    Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on what type of cancer you have, the stage, your general health and fitness, your doctors' recommendations and your wishes.

    • Epithelial ovarian cancer is commonly treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
    • Borderline tumours are usually treated with surgery.
    • Non-epithelial ovarian cancer is usually treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

    Your gynaecological oncologist will talk to you about the most appropriate type of surgery. An exploratory laparotomy is usually recommended if ovarian cancer is suspected. In this operation, the doctor makes a long, vertical cut from your bellybutton to your pubic bone hairline while you are under a general anaesthetic.

    The surgeon will take tissue (biopsy) and fluid samples from the abdomen. While still in theatre, the tissue samples are sent to a specialist called a pathologist who examines them for signs of cancer. This is called a frozen section analysis. If the pathologist confirms that cancer is present, the surgeon will continue the operation.

    If there is obvious spread of cancer, the surgeon will remove as much of the cancer as is possible. This is called surgical debulking. Surgical debulking allows chemotherapy treatment to be more effective


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/78741/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/surgery-for-ovarian-cancer/?pp=33777&cc=254&&ct=20

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Radiotherapy


    Radiotherapy uses x-rays to kill or damage cancer cells and reduce their activity. It is used less often than chemotherapy. The main use for radiotherapy is to ease symptoms or problems which are not responding to chemotherapy or when chemotherapy can no longer be given.

    If the cancer has spread, you will usually receive radiotherapy to the pelvis, or other parts of your body.

    During radiotherapy you will be in a room and lie on an examination couch or table. A radiotherapy machine will be moved around you depending on the body part being treated. The radiation therapist will position you and the machine and then leave the room during treatment.

    You will not feel anything during treatment, which will only take a few minutes each time. You may be in the room for a total of about 10–20 minutes for each appointment.

    The number of radiotherapy sessions you have will depend on the type and size of the cancer. You may have treatment for a week or daily outpatient treatment for several weeks. Your doctor will explain the treatment schedule and the possible side effects.

    Side effects


    The side effects of radiotherapy depend on the strength of the dose and the part of your body that is treated. You may experience the following:

    • fatigue and tiredness
    • diarrhoea
    • increased urination and stinging when emptying your bladder
    • slight burn to the skin around the treatment site.

    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/78743/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/radiotherapy-for-ovarian-cancer/?pp=33777&cc=254&ct=20

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Chemotherapy


    Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs. The aim is to destroy cancer cells while causing the least possible damage to normal, healthy cells.

    Although surgery may have removed most of the ovarian cancer, there may still be some cancer cells in the body. For this reason, chemotherapy is usually given soon after an operation.

    Women with early stage epithelial ovarian cancer or borderline tumours may not need chemotherapy.

    Women with epithelial ovarian cancer that has spread outside the ovaries usually receive a combination of two chemotherapy drugs. However, a single chemotherapy drug may be prescribed for frail or elderly women, or if there are other particular medical concerns.

    Chemotherapy is usually given through an intravenous drip. Some people have a small medical appliance called a port-a-cath or catheter placed beneath their skin through which they receive chemotherapy.

    Current standard treatment after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) is six treatments, given every 3–4 weeks over 5–6 months. Each chemotherapy treatment is called a cycle. However, some centres give chemotherapy in weekly doses and treatment varies for different women. Ask your doctor about the treatment plan recommended for you.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/78742/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/chemotherapy-for-ovarian-cancer/?pp=33777&cc=254&ct=20

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


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