Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest type of cancer that develops within the female reproductive system. High fatality rates point to the unsettling fact that most patients don’t get diagnosed with the disease until the cancerous cells have spread to other areas of the body.
As the name suggests, ovarian cancer is defined as cancerous tissue (tumors) within the ovaries. The ovaries produce eggs that can eventually form an embryo, so they are an essential part of the female reproductive system. They also create a large supply of estrogen and progesterone, which are hormones that the female body relies on for homeostasis.
This condition begins as any other cancer does; when the DNA within the body’s cells becomes mutated. Research is still being conducted to find out whether these mutations initially develop within the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Once the DNA mutation occurs, abnormal cells develop and rapidly reproduce, building up malignant (cancerous) tissue. This tissue can be classified into a few different categories. If the tumor is located on the outer area of the ovary it is considered an epithelial tumor. If the tumor is created from the cells involved in the egg production process, it is called a germ cell tumor. Stromal tumors are created from the cells that are involved in the hormone production process.
If the tumor stays only within the ovary, the cancer is still considered early-phase. Advanced-phase sets in when the tissue metastasizes and moves to other areas such as the pelvis.
During the development of these tumors, noticeable symptoms of ovarian cancer tend to be rare, especially in the early phase. Even after the cancer has progressed into the advanced stage, symptoms are ambiguous and can easily be associated with much more mild health conditions. Most wouldn’t guess that bloating in the abdomen, weight loss, or general pelvic discomfort would be connected specifically to ovarian tumors. This is a significant reason why the disease is so deadly.
The good news is that the amount of diagnoses in the U.S. have been decreasing slowly throughout the past few decades. Although there is nothing we can do to completely prevent onset of the disease, staying healthy and avoiding hormone replacements can lower the risk. Early detection is key, so staying in tune with any bodily changes and going to the doctor when in doubt are proactive ways to ensure the best possible outcome for your body.