Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries in females. The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on the type of ovarian cancer, the stage of cancer and general health.
Viable treatment options are Epithelial, Germ cell, Stromal cell and Borderline tumour This is usually treated with surgery only. The cancer is staged surgically which implies that the surgery will assist the doctor in working out how far the tumour has spread within the pelvic cavity. A general anaesthetic is administered and either a laparoscopy (with 3–4 small cuts in the abdomen) or laparotomy (with a long, vertical cut from your belly button to bikini line) is carried out. The type of surgery depends on the certainty of the gynaecological oncologist about how cancer has spread.
The ovarian cancer specialist will take a look inside the pelvis and abdomen for signs of cancer then take tissue and fluid samples via biopsy. If cancer is present in the ovaries, the gynaecological oncologist will continue with the operation and eliminate as much of cancer as possible. This procedure is called surgical debulking.
If cancer has metastasized, the patient will have to undergo Lymphadenectomy, Colectomy or Removal of other organs. The surgery is accompanied by risks such as regular tubes and drips, pain, injections and intensive wound care. It might also lead to infertility.
Ovarian cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in the ovaries, which are an important part of the female reproductive system. Ovaries are two small glands, located on either side of the uterus. They help produce female sex hormones and store or release eggs. An ovarian tumor is it is the eighth most common type of cancer among women. It is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in women around the world. Ovarian cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated on time, however, the chances of survival are great in the case of early diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer forms when normal ovarian cell growth fails, and there is an uncontrolled growth of cells. Most of the ovarian cancers arise from the lining cells (epithelium) of the ovary. The ovarian tumor can metastasize and spread to other organs of the body.
There is no identified and known cause of ovarian cancer. However, there are some risk factors associated with the disease. Family history (genetics) of ovarian cancer, older age, breast cancer, obesity, and endometriosis are some of the known ovarian cancer risk factors. Other than these, menstrual cycles play a major role in ovarian cancer. The high number of total lifetime ovulations, greater the risk of ovarian cancer. That is, women who have had their periods before the age of 12 are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The risk of ovarian cancer is also high in women suffering from familial melanoma, which is characterized by the presence of certain genes. These genes are inherited from parents and mostly occurs when two or more relatives suffer from the aggressive form of melanoma or skin cancer.
Typically, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle during the early stage. However, the patients may experience signs of ovarian cancer once the cancer advances and starts to grow. The following are some of the ovarian cancer symptoms:
Pain in the pelvis or belly
Frequent and urgent urination
Changes in bowel habits
Nausea and fatigue
Loss of appetite
These signs of ovarian cancer can be confused with those of ovarian cyst. However, patients must know that ovarian cysts are far more common and primarily affects women during their childbearing age.
Depending on the type, stage, grade of ovarian cancer and general health of the patient, the oncologist will devise the best treatment plan for the patient. However, a patient’s expectations and desires play a major role in selecting the treatment plan. For example, some patients may desire childbirth in the future, while others could be okay with having their uterus. the Fallopian tubes and ovaries removed.
The following are some of the ovarian cancer treatment strategies:
Surgery is often the first and the best treatment for ovarian cancer. Surgical removal of the cancer is done in a vast majority of ovarian cancer patients. The type of surgery opted for depends upon how widespread the cancer is when it is diagnosed.
There are different surgical procedures to get rid of ovarian cancer, such as unilateral oophorectomy (removal of one ovary) or bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries), salpingectomy (removal of Fallopian tubes), hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), and omentectomy (removal of momentum).
Typically, the organ in question is fully removed in all these procedures. In some of the advanced cancers, complete removal of the cancer cells is not possible. In such cases, the possible amount of tumor is removed in a procedure called debulking surgery.
Such patients require an extensive operation performed by the surgeon, who is a specialized gynecologic oncology surgeon. Therefore, ovarian cancer surgery requires a prolonged stay in the hospital, which lasts for at least three to seven days, plus a recovery period of at least four to six weeks.
Chemotherapy drugs interfere with cell division process and damages the DNA of the cancer cells to reduce their number and stop them from growing any further. Patients will often benefit greatly from its use in the case of ovarian cancer because ovarian cancer patients are able to tolerate it better because of fewer chemotherapy side effects.
In case of ovarian cancer treatment, chemotherapy drugs can be given into the vein intravenously (IV) or placed directly into the abdomen (IP).
In some cases, chemotherapy may be performed first, followed by a surgery. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Common chemotherapy drugs used to treat ovarian cancer include paclitaxel, cisplatin, topotecan, doxorubicin, epirubicin, and gemcitabine.
Drugs used in chemotherapy travel throughout the body and can also kill a few normal cells in the body, leading to unpleasant side effects. So, chemotherapy should be followed only if the patient can cope with it. Chemotherapy can cause anemia and leucopenia, besides vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, hair loss, and fatigue.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or proton beams to destroy the tumors of ovarian cancer. This can be given as palliative therapy, or as adjuvant therapy combined with surgery or chemotherapy. However, radiation therapy alone does not improve survival rate in people with well-differentiated cancers. Common side effects of radiotherapy treatment are diarrhea, constipation, and frequent urination.
Although estrogen alone does not have any effect on cancer, cutting off a supply of estrogen slows the growth of cancer cells. Hormone therapy can prevent estrogen from reaching the cancer cells, thus suppressing the growth of cancer.
Newer medications are being developed that can target cancer cells directly, but till now this treatment only helps reduce damage to the normal cells and subsidize the side effects of chemotherapy.
Recovery after ovarian cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally painful. This is especially true of the patients had her ovaries and uterus removed completely. There may be certain side effects arising out of sudden menopause and women may face difficulty in adjusting to the life after ovarian cancer treatment.
For women who have had a surgery as a part of the treatment plan, driving after a month of the surgery should not be a problem. However, the best is to seek advice from your doctor at every step and before taking any new step.
Some women may face difficulty concentrating on day-to-day chores after the treatment. Several cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy may further slow down recovery. It is important to take plenty of fluids to recover from treatment and minimize the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is equally important to maintain a proper diet during the recovery period.
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