Ovarian Cancer Overview
WellStar Health System provides superior care for ovarian cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition WellStar offers such innovative advances in the fight against ovarian cancer, including:
- Advanced gynecologic oncologists who specialize in ovarian cancer and who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere.
- Expert surgical teams offering experience in hysterectomies and other procedures as well as robotic surgeries.
- The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments - including ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that allows for the radiation to be tailored to the size and placement of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
- A Tumor Board, which is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team, for review of difficult cases.
- Clinical trials - more than 200 patients are enrolled annually in WellStar programs
Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs that produce eggs, and, if left undetected or untreated, can spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer can be difficult to treat and can be fatal.
The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. In general, the cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic mutation that turns normal cells into abnormal ones. As healthy cells die and abnormal ones accumulate, a tumor may form in the ovaries.
Ovarian cancer is generally categorized according to where the cancer began and helps your WellStar physician and oncologist determine your prognosis and best treatment method. These cancers include:
- Epithelial tumors. The most common form of ovarian cancer, these tumors begin in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries.
- Germ cell tumors. These cancers tend to occur in younger women and begin in egg-producing cells.
- Stromal tumors. These cancers begin in the ovarian tissue that produces the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are not all specific to the disease and can often be associated with other more common conditions such as menstruation, digestive or bladder problems. However, when ovarian cancer is present, the symptoms tend to be persistent and worsen over time.
Some of these symptoms are:
- Abdominal pressure or bloating
- Pelvic discomfort or pain
- Difficulty eating or persistent gas, nausea or indigestion
- Severe changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Sense of heaviness in the pelvis
- Vaginal bleeding or abnormal menstrual cycles
- Lower back pain
- Weight gain or loss
Although some symptoms can be indications of something far less serious, it is important to see your WellStar physician if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks.
Although the cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, the risk for developing the disease appears to be affected by several factors. These factors include:
- Family history of the disease or a personal history of breast cancer.
- Inherited gene mutations, specifically the genes known as breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA 1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). Another genetic link to ovarian and other types of cancer is called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
- Never been pregnant. Women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of ovarian cancer; in fact, the more children a woman has and the earlier in life she gives birth, the lower her risk.
- Increasing age. Older women are at highest risk with about two-thirds of deaths from ovarian cancer occurring in women age 55 and older.
- Hormone replacement therapy. Women who take estrogen replacement for five years or more seem to have a higher risk. But women on birth control medication seem to be at lower risk.