Ask a Women’s Health Texas Doctor: Learn about Ovarian Cancer
Jessica Guerrero, MD with Women’s Health Texas San Antonio recently answered questions about the common symptoms of ovarian cancer, treatment and risk reduction.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is when cells in the ovaries divide abnormally, out of control and form malignant tumors. Ovarian cancer can affect one or both ovaries. The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,530 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2019, and over 13,000 women will die from ovarian cancer in 2019. Ovarian cancer ranks 5th in cancer deaths among women and accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. This is due mostly because ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it is in an advanced stage. There are three main types of ovarian cancer and researchers now believe that some tumors develop in the fallopian tube and travel to the ovary.
What are the common signs and symptoms?
Bloating or an increase in abdominal size; pelvic or abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; urinary symptoms (urgency & frequency); vaginal bleeding (especially after menopause); change in bowel habits; and weight loss are all symptoms of ovarian cancer.
What are some risk factors?
Risk factors include:
- advanced age
- family history of breast, ovarian, colon, uterine cancer
- personal history of breast cancer
- gene mutations BRCA1 & BRCA2
- never having children
- Lynch Syndrome
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
There is no screening test. Ovarian cancer is normally diagnosed through a physical exam (including a pelvic exam), imaging (transvaginal ultrasound), blood test (CA125), and consultation with or referral to a gynecologic oncologist may be recommended.
How is ovarian cancer treated?
Surgery – in some cases the only ovary with cancer is removed, but often the uterus, both ovaries, and fallopian tubes will need to be removed. Lymph nodes and tissues in the pelvis and abdomen may need to have a pathological examination for cancer and may need to be removed as well. In many cases, chemotherapy is also used.
How can I reduce my risk of ovarian cancer?
- Discuss your risk factors with your OB/GYN.
- Oral contraceptives (OCPs) may reduce risk – for every 5 years of use, risk is reduced by 20%. The benefit of OCPs should be weighed against the risk of OCPs in consultation with your ObGyn.
- Salpingectomy – removal of fallopian tubes.
If you need a hysterectomy or choose sterilization as a method of contraception, discuss this risk-reducing procedure with your OB/GYN.
Are there good resources to learn more about this?
- Talking to your Women’s Health Texas ObGyn about your symptoms and concerns
- Medical organizations that specialize in topics on ovarian cancer, mayoclinic.org, cancer.org and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at acog.org.