The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system. There are two ovaries (a left one and a right one) and when women get old enough to have children one of the ovaries releases an egg each month. These eggs then pass down the fallopian tube to the womb where they can be fertilised with sperm. If the eggs are not fertilised they exit the body during the woman’s monthly period. Aside from releasing eggs, the ovaries are also responsible for producing oestrogen and progesterone.
Ovarian cancer develops when something goes wrong with the cell division process in the ovaries causing them to grow in a rapid and uncontrollable way. It is the fourth most common type of cancer in females with around 7,000 women contracting it in the UK each year. This condition is most prevalent in menopausal women and is rarely diagnosed in women under 40. There are three main types of ovarian cancer and below I will be discussing each of them in greater detail.
1) EPITHELIAL OVARIAN CANCER:- This type of cancer occurs when the cells that line the ovaries (the epithelium) start to grow in a rapid, out of control way. Between 70% and 80% of ovary cancers are this type and it is almost always diagnosed in women who have been through the menopause.
2) GERM CELL OVARIAN CANCER:- This type of cancer develops when the germ cells (the cells responsible for making eggs) start to grow rapidly and uncontrollably. Approximately 15% of ovary cancers are this type and unlike the other forms of this disease, germ cell ovarian cancer normally affects younger women.
3) STROMAL OVARIAN CANCER:- This type of cancer develops when the connective tissues of the ovaries become cancerous and start to grow in a rapid, uncontrollable way. Between 5% and 10% of ovary cancers are this type. This type of cancer normally only affects one of the two ovaries.
Although there are three main kinds of ovarian cancer the risk factors, symptoms, tests, treatments and survival rates are similar for each. Women who contract this type of cancer have a five year survival rate of 75% if it stays within the ovaries although this drops to 20% if the cancer spreads to other areas of the body. It is not known exactly what causes this disease but age, obesity and family history are all thought to have an influence. The symptoms of ovary cancer are often very mild or non-existent but when they do surface they include bloating, constipation and stomach pain. If you are diagnosed with this condition surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the three most common treatment options.
I hope this article has given you a good overview of this condition. Whilst being diagnosed with cancer is never going to be a pleasant experience this variation is very treatable if caught early. If you have any concerns regarding this type of cancer then go see your doctor and explain your concerns. They will be able to answer your questions and give you a professional, qualified opinion.
Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative, it is intended for general information only. Ovarian cancer is a very serious, life threatening condition and you should discuss any concerns, treatments or lifestyle changes fully with your doctor.