Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancerous and can spread.
Ovarian cancers were once thought to develop solely in the ovaries, but new research reveals that many ovarian cancers may begin in cells at the far (distal) end of the fallopian tubes.
What are the functions of the ovaries?
Females exclusively have ovaries, which are reproductive glands. For reproduction, the ovaries generate eggs (ova). The fertilized eggs move from the ovaries to the uterus via the fallopian tubes, where they settle and grow into a fetus. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone are produced mostly by the ovaries. Each side of the uterus has one ovary.
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 21,410 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and 13,770 women will die from ovarian cancer in 2021.
Is Ovarian Cancer Preventable?
The majority of women have one or more ovarian cancer risk factors. However, most prevalent variables only slightly increase your risk. Therefore, they only account for a portion of the disease’s frequency.
Ovarian cancer may cause several signs and symptoms. Women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread, but even early-stage ovarian cancer can cause them. The most common symptoms include:
- Pelvic or abdominal (belly) pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often)
These symptoms are also commonly caused by benign (non-cancerous) diseases and by cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and a change from normal − for example, they occur more often or are more severe. These symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions, and most of them occur just about as often in women who don’t have ovarian cancer. If you do have these symptoms more than 12 times per month, see your doctor so the problem can be found and treated if necessary.
Others symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Changes in a woman’s period, such as heavier bleeding than normal or irregular bleeding
- Abdominal (belly) swelling with weight loss
If you have any of these symptoms, it does not mean you have ovarian cancer, as other conditions may be present. It is important to schedule an appointment with your physician to have the symptoms checked.