Cancer of the Ovaries is the second most common gynaecological cancer in Australia. Every year, over 1500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer incidence increases with increasing age. The most common age of diagnosis of ovarian cancer is from 50 to 59 years of age.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
The symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer are non-specific, and the disease is often not recognised until it is in an advanced stage. Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- abdominal pain,
- weight loss,
- loss of appetite,
- urinary symptoms (e.g. increased frequency of urination), and
- change of bowel habit.
As many of these symptoms are also often experienced by women who do NOT have ovarian cancer, ovarian cancer is often not suspected until significant symptoms and signs develop.
Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer
Some women may be at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Some of these risk factors include:
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Familial ovarian cancer syndromes
- Breast-ovarian cancer syndrome – BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations
- The Lynch II syndrome – cancers of the colon, breast, endometrium, and ovary with hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
- Hormone replacement therapy
The risk of ovarian cancer may be decreased in women with a history of:
- Use of the oral contraceptive pill
- Tubal ligation or Hysterectomy
Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer
When ovarian cancer is suspected, the diagnosis is not established until after the surgery, when tissue is sent to the pathologist to confirm the diagnosis. Before surgery, blood tests called tumour markers (CA125, CA19.9, CEA, HE4) and radiological imaging (CT scan, ultrasound) may help to give an estimate of the risk of malignancy.
Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves removal of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes. Suspicious tissues are sent to the pathologist during surgery for immediate testing (frozen section), and if cancer is confirmed, Dr Amy Tang will proceed with a staging procedure to ascertain the extent of spread of the cancer.
Most patients will require chemotherapy after the surgery, as this has been shown in scientific studies to improve outcome and survival. Chemotherapy may not be required if the ovarian cancer is in the very early stage with no evidence of spread anywhere else in the body.
For further information, arrange an appointment to discuss your condition with Dr Amy Tang.