Ovarian cancer may be difficult to treat because it is often undiscovered until it has progressed to an advanced stage. Scroll down to learn about how to treat this disease.
Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers of the reproductive system in women. The American Cancer Society reports that this cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths of women. Between 2008 and 2014, the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health reports that women who had ovarian cancer had a five-year survival rate of 47.4 percent.
Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer may experience both psychological and physical challenges. They may be worried about the possibility of dying while undergoing repetitive cycles of aggressive cancer treatments and dealing with severe side effects. If the cancer is caught in a late stage, the prognosis may be very poor. Ovarian cancer may also have a negative impact on the families of women who are diagnosed with it because of the stress and anxiety that they might feel at the thought of losing their loved ones.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Cancer cells may grow anywhere in the body. The cells are abnormal and experience unchecked growth. Cancer that starts in the ovaries is called ovarian cancer. The ovaries are found in the reproductive systems of women and are the glands that produce the eggs for the reproductive process. Ovaries also produce progesterone and estrogen, and they are located on either side of the uterus.
There are three types of cells that make up the ovaries, and each type can form into distinct types of cancer cells. Epithelial tumors begin in the epithelial cells that cover the exterior surfaces of the ovaries. Germ cell tumors originate in the germ cells that produce eggs, and stromal tumors begin in the tissues that produce estrogen and that hold the ovaries in place.
The exact cause of most cases of ovarian cancer is unknown. A small percentage of women have gene mutations that have been associated with higher risks of developing ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Mutations in the DNA may be inherited or acquired.
There are risk factors that are associated with an increased likelihood of getting ovarian cancer, including the following:
- Being older than age 40
- Being obese
- Not having children or having the first birth after age 35
- Taking the fertility drug Clomid for longer than one year
- Taking androgens
- Receiving estrogen therapy after menopause for five or more years
Signs and Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic, ovarian cancer usually does not cause any symptoms when it is in its early stages. Ovarian cancer that is in a more advanced stage may cause symptoms that might be mistaken for other conditions.
The symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer may include the following:
- Swelling and pain in the abdominal region
- Feeling full very quickly when eating
- Pelvic-area discomfort
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Changes in bowel movements
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should talk about them with your doctor.
Common Treatment Options
Ovarian cancer is often not discovered until it is in an advanced stage. Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer may undergo aggressive treatments, including the following:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Hormone therapy
In many cases, doctors will recommend combining two or more different types of treatment. Women should think carefully about the different treatment options and ask their doctors questions about the side effects.
There are multiple alternative remedies for ovarian cancer that you might try as a complement to the medical care that you are receiving. These complementary treatments might help to reduce some of the side effects that you might experience from your medical treatments such as pain, nausea, and fatigue. Alternative remedies may also help to alleviate stress.
Some common types of alternative treatments that women with ovarian cancer might try include the following:
- Therapeutic massage
- Tai chi
Women may also benefit by eating a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and grains. They might want to limit saturated fats and fatty cuts of meat.