Most types of ovarian cancer begin in the epithelium, which is a layer of tissue that lines the ovaries. These are called epithelial tumors. Germ cell carcinomas, which begin in the cells that make eggs, and stromal carcinoma tumors, which start in the connective tissue of the ovaries, are also common types of ovarian cancer.
The ovaries are a critical part of a woman’s reproductive system, producing female hormones as well as eggs. Ovarian cancer is not the most common cancer, but it does rank 10th on the list of cancers that women get and fifth in cancer-related deaths .
Causes and Symptoms
Researchers aren’t sure what causes ovarian cancer, but there are some factors that appear to increase risk. Things like have a family history of cancer, having had cancer previously and being older all lead to a higher ovarian cancer risk. Women who were never pregnant or have used hormonal therapy for menopause also seem to run a greater risk of developing ovarian cancer.
At first, ovarian cancer may not present symptoms. But as it progresses, symptoms might include fatigue as well as pain, pressure or swelling in the abdomen and pelvis and shortness of breath. Digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea and bloating are also common.
Treatment of Ovarian Cancer
The primary treatments for ovarian cancer are surgery to remove an ovary or part of an ovary, as well as chemotherapy to kill cancer cells in the surrounding tissue. Radiation therapy is not used as frequently to treat ovarian cancer as it is for some other forms of cancer.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute; Ovarian Cancer National Alliance