Facts About Ovaries & Ovarian Cancer

August 18, 2023

Ovaries play a crucial role in reproductive and hormonal health. While they often remain shrouded in mystery, understanding the facts about ovaries and their connection to ovarian cancer is vital for women’s well-being.  Especially since ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen.  It is best that women educate themselves and learn the signs and symptoms.  

What Are Ovaries?

The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive organs located on either side of the uterus, in the lower abdomen. Ovaries produce and release eggs (ova) that are fertilized by sperm during sexual intercourse, leading to pregnancy. They also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which play important roles in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. The release of these hormones is regulated by the pituitary gland in the brain. In addition to their reproductive functions, the ovaries also have other important roles in the body, including regulating bone density and cardiovascular health.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Normally, healthy cells in your body divide and form new cells to repair injuries and replace old or dying cells. Cancer cells are different.  Cancer cells grow uncontrollably, dividing into new abnormal cells.  This leads to the growth of a tumor and can put pressure on nearby organs.  Cancer cells can spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. 

When it comes to diagnosis of what type of cancer it is, it is often determined by the site of where it started. So, when cancer cells are first formed in the ovaries and spread to other organs, they will be diagnosed and treated as ovarian cancer

Statistics For Ovarian Cancer

  1. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
  2. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 19,710 women in the United States will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2023, and about 13,270 women will die from the disease.
  3. The symptoms are often vague and can be easily attributed to other conditions. Symptoms may include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms.
  4. Risk factors include a family history of ovarian, breast, or colon cancer, inherited genetic mutations (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2), certain fertility treatments, and age (most cases occur in women over 50).
  5. There are different types of ovarian cancer, including epithelial, germ cell, and stromal cell tumors. Epithelial tumors are the most common, accounting for about 85-90% of cases.
  6. Treatment often involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. In some cases, radiation therapy may also be used.
  7. Early detection can improve the chances of successful treatment. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer or other risk factors may be advised to undergo regular screening tests, such as a pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, or CA-125 blood test.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or experience any of the following symptoms.  Contact your healthcare provider.  

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating.
  • Changes in your eating habits, feeling full early, or loss of appetite.
  • Vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding, especially if the bleeding occurs outside of your typical menstrual cycle or after you’ve gone through menopause.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • An increase in the size of your abdomen.
  • Frequent urination.

Your best defense against any form of cancer is early detection.  Be sure to keep up with your annual exams.  Here at GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we are here to help you with any concerns you may have about your reproductive health.