Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen, making it more challenging to treat. This cancer is frequently referred to as the “silent killer” due to its vague and often overlooked symptoms, which can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating, and frequent urination. Globally, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer among women. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 78.
Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- pelvic or abdominal pain
- difficulty eating
- frequent urination
Doctors use several methods to diagnose ovarian cancer, including a physical exam, imaging tests like ultrasound or CT scan, and blood tests that measure certain proteins that can be elevated in ovarian cancer. A biopsy may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Surgery is often the first step in treating ovarian cancer, and it may involve removing one or both ovaries, as well as the fallopian tubes and uterus. Chemotherapy may also be used to kill cancer cells, either before or after surgery.
Ovarian cancers include cancers that begin in the epithelial cells that line the fallopian tubes or peritoneum as well as the ovaries, and they are collectively called epithelial ovarian cancers. Other types of ovarian cancer arise in other cells, including germ cell tumors, which start in the cells that make eggs, and stromal cell tumors, which start in supporting tissues.
Ovarian cancer is most common in postmenopausal women. Over the last 10 years, the number of new cases of ovarian cancer decreased slightly each year. There was also a slight decrease in the number of deaths from ovarian cancer each year from 2009 to 2018.
Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer and/or certain inherited gene changes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes, have a higher risk than women who do not have a family history or who have not inherited these gene changes. For women with inherited risk, genetic counseling and genetic testing can be used to find out more about how likely they are to develop ovarian cancer. It is hard to find ovarian cancer early. Early ovarian cancer may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, ovarian cancer is often advanced.
Surgery and chemotherapy are the main treatments for ovarian cancer. The location and type of cells where the cancer begins, and whether the cancer is high-grade or low-grade, may influence the success of treatment. Surgery can cure most people with early-stage ovarian cancer that has not spread beyond the ovaries. For advanced ovarian cancer, the goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible, called surgical debulking Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin or carboplatin (Paraplatin), often given in combination with other drugs, are usually effective in treating epithelial ovarian cancer at any stage. However, in most people with advanced ovarian cancer, the cancer usually comes back. Treating the cancer again with platinum drugs may work, but eventually the tumors become resistant to the drugs.
Approximately 313,959 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in 2020, and there were 207,252 ovarian cancer-related deaths. It results in a 66% death rate. Overall, 17.4% of people in the United States diagnosed with lung cancer survive five years after the diagnosis, while outcomes on average are worse in the developing world.The five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late stages is approximately 30%, but when diagnosed and treated in its early stages, the survival rate increases to over 93%.