A cancer that forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells).
Ovarian Cancer is a cancerous growth arising from an ovary. The cancer most commonly forms in the lining of the ovary, resulting in epithelial ovarian cancer, or in the egg cells, resulting in a germ cell tumor. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death from cancer in women and the leading cause of death from gynecological cancer. A woman has a lifetime risk of ovarian cancer of around 1.5%, which makes it the second most common gynecologic malignancy.
Ovarian cancer has been named ‘the silent killer’ because it frequently causes non-specific symptoms, which contributes to diagnostic delay, diagnosis in a late stage and a poor prognosis. Most women with ovarian cancer report one or more symptoms such as abdominal pain or discomfort, an abdominal mass, bloating, back pain, urinary urgency, constipation, tiredness and a range of other non-specific symptoms, as well as more specific symptoms such as pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding or involuntary weight loss. There can be a build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity.
In most cases, the cause of ovarian cancer remains unknown. There is an increased risk of ovarian cancer in older women and in those who have a first or second degree relative with the disease. Hereditary forms of ovarian cancer can be caused by mutations in specific genes (most notably BRCA1 and BRCA2, but also in genes for hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer). Infertile women and those with a condition called endometriosis, those who have never been pregnant and those who use postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy are at increased risk. Use of oral contraceptive pills is a protective factor. The risk is also lower in women who have had their uterine tubes blocked surgically.
In order to avoid ovarian cancer, there are several steps that a woman can take. Step 1: Keep the diet clean. Avoid a diet that is high in saturated fat, low in fiber, and also avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. Instead, eat lean meats, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, fish, seeds, nuts, whole grains and beans.
Step 2: Get some exercise. Obesity is a risk factor for getting ovarian cancer. Perform exercise 30 minutes a day on five or more days a week to help keep weight under control. Some examples are running, weight training, and biking; swimming, rowing or fast-paced walking.
Step 3: Have a baby. Although it may not be the best thing to do at this current moment in your life, having a baby can help lower your risk of ovarian cancer. Your risk can actually get lower with each child you have.
Step 4: Go on the birth control pill. On the opposite side of pregnancy is the birth control pill, also known as an “oral contraceptive.” These are actually used to stop the ovulation process and prevent pregnancy. As an added benefit, they can also lower your risk for ovarian cancer.
Step 5: Get an operation. There are two surgical procedures that can be done to prevent ovarian cancer. Tubal litigation is done to prevent pregnancy by tying off the fallopian tubes, according to doctors at The Oncology Channel, although the mechanism of cancer prevention is not yet known. The other option is the removal of the ovaries altogether. This is usually done when a woman is getting a hysterectomy and she is over 40 years old. The ovaries are removed as a preventative measure.