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Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer

Updated: Feb 2

✍🏽 Aaditi Kumbhar | MPH Epidemiology Graduate from New York University

 

What is Ovarian cancer?🤔

Ovarian cancer is a group of diseases that can originate in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or peritoneum.

Ovarian cancer is a health issue for anyone with ovaries (which can include women, aswell as intersex and nonbinary people). Due to its limited understanding and research, diagnosis can be difficult, further adding to stress and distress of cancer. There are three types of ovarian cancer: epithelial cancer, germ cell ovarian tumours, and sex cord stromal tumours. Epithelial cancer is cancer of the cells that surround the ovary. It can also include cancer of the cells that surround fallopian tubes (fallopian cancer) and tissues in the belly (peritoneum cancer). Germ cell ovarian tumours are the rarest form of ovarian cancer and affect young girls and young women up to 30 years old. Sex cord stromal tumours are also a rare form of cancer on tissue supporting the ovaries.


 

How many people are impacted by ovarian cancer? 👥

Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer due to its high morbidity rate. Between 2016 and 2020, 69,047 people out of 99,315 diagnosed cases died due to this illness. The highest recorded deaths across the United States occurred in South Dakota with 7.3 out of 100,000 people dying from ovarian cancer.

In every 100,000 people, 10 new cases are diagnosed and 6 die from Ovarian Cancer.

Ovarian cancer primarily develops in older, white people with ovaries, with individuals older than 63 at the highest risk. The American Cancer Society states that ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, making this disease a necessary concern to address.


 

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer? 👀

Unspecific symptoms makes ovarian cancer hard to diagnose.

Most ovarian cancer symptoms are incredibly unspecific and can be attributed to other illnesses, diseases, or premenstrual symptoms. Because of the generic experiences, most people don't know to look for ovarian cancer until the cancer has progressed within their system. Some primary symptoms to look for include vaginal bleeding post-menopause, abdominal or back pain, appetite changes, and change in bathroom habits. Undoubtedly, these symptoms are very basic and can account for a multitude of health problems. The safest way to address ovarian cancer is to report any unusual body changes to a medical professional to get symptoms checked.


A person bent over, clutching their abdomen in pain

 

How do we diagnose and treat ovarian cancer? 👩‍⚕️

Screening is a necessary step to diagnose and treat ovarian cancer.

The best way to screen for ovarian cancer in an individual with no evident symptoms is a combined blood test looking for the CA 125 tumour marker, alongside an ultrasound. The CA 125 tumour marker, also known as Mucin-16, is primarily used in post-menopausal women to assess if tumours are present within ovarian, fallopian, uterine, or peritoneum cells. The combination is necessary because neither the tumour marker by itself or the ultrasound will present enough evidence to accurately diagnose ovarian cancer.


A patient recieving an ultrasound.
Treatment for ovarian cancer is dependent on the type of cancer and the progression.

The most common treatment for ovarian cancer is either chemotherapy or surgery. While it is often difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer early, early diagnosis improves the chances of remission. A surgical procedure can be conducted to remove the infected part of the reproductive system, and follow-up appointments can be used to monitor cancer progression. Chemotherapy applies medication that kills cancer cells to the affected area, and can often be successful in remission. Usually, a combination of chemotherapy and surgery is used for more intense cases.


 

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Edited by: Olivia Laughton | Content Editor | BSc Microbiology, University of Leeds



 

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Guest
Jan 30
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Well written Aditi very informative

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Guest
Jan 29
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very informative and well -written

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Guest
Jan 29

Awesome article!

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Guest
Jan 29
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Eye-opener!Well-done Aditi

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Guest
Jan 29
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very informative article.

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