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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Overview - The Basics

What is ovarian cancer?

Simply put, ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries.

Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. They produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone as well as release one egg each month for possible fertilization.

As with all cancers, ovarian cancer is a result of a change or mutation, in the DNA in cells. This mutation will affect how the cells grow and reproduce. In ovarian cancer, cells start to change and grow abnormally resulting in a large mass of cells called a tumor.

How is it diagnosed?

Because of the anatomic location of the ovaries deep in the pelvis, early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is very difficult. There are a number of tests used to diagnose ovarian cancer, but they are usually done after your doctor feels an enlarged ovary during a pelvic exam. These tests range from non-invasive (blood tests) to invasive (explorative surgery). For more detailed information on the various test, please click here or here.

What are the risks associated with developing ovarian cancer?

Like many cancers, there is a long list of “risk factors” associated with developing ovarian cancer. The list includes everything from age and diet to family history (genetics), and this list varies greatly depending on where you are getting your information. However, one risk factor that is strongly associated with developing ovarian cancer is the genetic abnormality in BRCA genes that causes DNA repair defects. BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers have up to a 54% increased lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer.

What are the treatment options after a positive diagnosis?

The basic form of treatment of ovarian cancer, besides surgery, is chemotherapy. It usually entails a form of combined therapy, which uses more than one drug to treat a single disease.




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