Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. The female reproductive system contains two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
It’s easy to overlook the early symptoms of ovarian cancer because they’re similar to other common illnesses or they tend to come and go. The early symptoms include:
- abdominal bloating, pressure, and pain
- abnormal fullness after eating
- difficulty eating
- an increase in urination
- an increased urge to urinate
Ovarian cancer can also cause other symptoms, such as:
- back pain
- menstrual irregularities
- painful intercourse
- dermatomyositis (a rare inflammatory disease that can cause skin rash, muscle weakness, and inflamed muscles)
These symptoms may occur for any number of reasons. They aren’t necessarily due to ovarian cancer. Many women have some of these problems at one time or another.
These types of symptoms are often temporary and respond to simple treatments in most cases.
The symptoms will persist if they’re due to ovarian cancer. Symptoms usually become more severe as the tumor grows. By this time, cancer has usually spread outside of the ovaries, making it much harder to treat effectively.
Again, cancers are best treated when detected early. Please consult with your doctor if you experience new and unusual symptom
Causes of ovarian cancer
It’s not clear what causes ovarian cancer, though doctors have identified factors that can increase the risk of the disease.
In general, cancer begins when a cell develops errors (mutations) in its DNA. The mutations tell the cell to grow and multiply quickly, creating a mass (tumor) of abnormal cells. The abnormal cells continue living when healthy cells would die. They can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body.
Types of ovarian cancer
The type of cell where cancer begins determines the type of ovarian cancer you have. Ovarian cancer types include:
Epithelial tumors, which begin in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors.
Stromal tumors, which begin in the ovarian tissue that contains hormone-producing cells. These tumors are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage than other ovarian tumors. About 7 percent of ovarian tumors are stromal.
Germ cell tumors, which begin in the egg-producing cells. These rare ovarian cancers tend to occur in younger women.
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