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Understanding Ovarian Cancer: What Signs to Look For

For many women, the words “ovarian cancer” can stir up a mix of fear, uncertainty, and worry. But understanding what the disease is, what its symptoms are, and how it is treated can help to demystify it. 

Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at ovarian cancer: from risk factors to symptoms and diagnosis options to treatment plans – so that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions about your health.

The ovarian cancer ribbon indicates that September is its month for awareness.

About Ovarian Cancer

Cancer is a disease when cells grow out of control. Ovarian cancer can grow in the ovaries themselves or the fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus.

Ovarian cancer can spread to other parts of the body. When this happens, it is called metastasis. One such place that ovarian cancer cells can travel to is the liver. 

When these cancer cells are found there, they look just like ovarian cancer cells. Therefore, the diagnosis is still ovarian cancer, despite it being present in the liver. 

What Are the Different Kinds of Ovarian Cancer?

There are several different types of ovarian cancer. The most common types of ovarian cancer are listed below.

  • Epithelial cancers: Cancers that originate from the cells on the outside of the ovary.
  • Germ cell cancers: Cancers that originate from the ovarian cells that make eggs.
  • Stromal cancers: Cancers that originate from cells that hold the ovary together and make female hormones.

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What Signs of Ovarian Cancer Should I Be Aware Of?

There are certain signs and symptoms that could indicate ovarian cancer. As these symptoms could indicate other conditions, you should get a diagnosis from a doctor.  Possible signs and symptoms include the following.

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms and they have lasted more than 2 weeks, you should contact the doctors at Maiden Lane Medical for a diagnosis. The only exception is unusual vaginal bleeding. This should be seen immediately.

What Are the Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer?

There are certain factors that can put you at greater risk of getting ovarian cancer. However, even some who are not at high risk can even develop it. The known risks include the following:

  • Having close family members (such as your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother) on either your mother’s or your father’s side who have had ovarian cancer.
  • Possessing a genetic mutation (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2) or one associated with Lynch syndrome.
  • Having a history of breast cancer, uterine, or colorectal (colon) cancer.
  • Having an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background.
  • Being diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition characterized by the growth of uterine lining tissues outside the uterus.
  • Having no history of pregnancy or experiencing difficulties in conceiving.

If any of these things are true in your case, it doesn’t mean that you will get ovarian cancer. 

If you are concerned about your risk of getting ovarian cancer, then you should speak to your healthcare provider. They can assess your ovarian cancer risk factors and family history of cancer as a part of the visit. 

If you have a first-degree relative or a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you should talk to your provider about possible genetic testing for the BRCA gene. This testing can be done with the Comprehensive Hereditary Cancer Panel test.

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How Ovarian Cancer is Treated

Treatment for ovarian cancer will depend on the staging of the cancer. Treatment usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery: The cancer tissue is removed in an operation.
  • Chemotherapy: Medicines are used to shrink or kill the cancer. The medication may be administered as a pill, given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Targeted therapies: This treatment targets cancer cells. They are designed to stop or slow the growth or spread of cancer cells. Like chemotherapy, they can be administered as pills or through your veins.

Contact Us

If you are concerned about ovarian cancer, book an appointment with one of the doctors at Maiden Lane Medical. We can assess your risk or any unusual symptoms that you might be experiencing. Our office can be found in Manhattan, NY. Contact us today!

Medically Reviewed By

Gillian Scott Hans, NP, CNM
Obstetrics and Gynecology Nurse Practitioner

Expert Medical Services

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