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Understanding Ovarian Cancer


Ovarian cancer is a malignancy of the female reproductive organ: the ovaries. This diagnosis typically strikes fear in all affected due to the poor prognosis. However, not all ovarian cancers are the same and the best way to fight this disease (and others) is to understand the problem.

Cancer of the ovary arises from the various cell types that make up the ovary. These complex organs have a multitude of functions and therefore have a number of different cells designed to carry out this function. The ovary produces eggs for reproduction and therefore harbors the genetic material that is responsible for creating life. The cells surrounding the germ cells also produce a variety of hormones that play a vital role in supporting a pregnancy. The hormones also have affects in other parts of the body.

Ovarian cancers tend to fall into two types: epithelial or germ cell cancers. Within these types are a variety of subtypes. The epithelial cancers represent 90% of the cases of ovarian cancer. The most common types are: serous, mucinous, endometriod and clear cell types. The germ cell cancers and other uncommon types represent 10% of the ovarian cancer. The prognoses for these vary and depend on the type, specific cellular characteristics and the stage at the time of diagnosis.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from a gynecologic malignancy. More than 22,000 cases are expected in 2013 and it is estimated that more than 14,000 women will die as a result. This is a death rate of about 63%. The lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is less than 2%.

Even though the risk is low, the high death rate makes this a disease of great concern. The 5-year survival of ovarian cancer is less than 45% and this is primarily due to the late stage of diagnosis. Unfortunately the survival rates have not improved significantly over the past 30 years despite advances in other areas of cancer treatment.

More than 75% of the cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage and this contributes to the poor prognosis. Unlike breast and cervical cancer there isnít a screening test available that will allow for early detection. Unlike endometrial cancer, there isnít an early sign that helps doctors to detect this cancer early. The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be vague to none. The slow growing cancer can be present for years without being detected and by the time symptoms are present it is usually too late.

The likelihood of developing ovarian cancer is low. Some individuals have factors, which place them at higher risk than the average women. It is important to see your gynecologist on a regular bases for a routine gynecologic examination and of course if you have unusual pain or discomfort that is persistent.

I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:

Live healthy, live well and live long!


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Content copyright © 2014 by Dr. Denise Howard. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Dr. Denise Howard. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Dr. Denise Howard for details.

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