GYN Clinic serving Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk & Portsmouth
Early warning signs of ovarian cancer
Since 2004, our GYN doctors in Gynecology Specialists have been helping women detect and treat ovarian cancer. Following is some valuable information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that can help you better understand this health issue. If you have any questions, please call our GYN Clinic at (757) 312-8221 where we care for women and teens from Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Peninsula, Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads and North Carolina.
What is cancer?
Cancer occurs when old cells do not die when they should or are damaged. Normally, the body repairs or destroys such cells. Sometimes, these cells may grow out of control. This causes growths or tumors to form. Tumors can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy healthy tissues and organs. Cancer cells also can spread to other parts of the body and form new tumors.
What is cancer of the ovary?
Cancer of the ovary is a disease that affects one or both ovaries.
How are types of ovarian cancer distinguished?
According to our GYN doctors, the type of ovarian cancer is based on the type of cells in which it occurs. The three main types are:
1. Epithelial cell cancer – Epithelial cells cover the surface of the ovary. Eighty-five to ninety percent of ovarian cancer cases are this type.
2. Germ cell cancer – Germ cells are the cells in the ovary that develop into eggs. This type of cancer is more common in younger women and usually has a high cure rate.
3. Stromal cell cancer – Stromal cell cancer occurs in the connective tissue, which provides the internal structure of the ovary. It also has a high cure rate.
What are the risk factors for epithelial ovarian cancer?
Certain risk factors are associated with epithelial ovarian cancer. The following factors have been shown to increase a woman’s risk of getting cancer of the ovary:
• Age older than 55 years
• Family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus)
• Personal history of breast cancer
• Certain changes (mutations) in BRCA1 or BRCA2
• Never have had children
What tests are available at a GYN clinic to screen for epithelial ovarian cancer?
The Pap test is a good way to screen for cervical cancer, but it does not detect ovarian cancer. A pelvic exam sometimes can detect problems with the ovaries. At this time, however, there is no good screening test for ovarian cancer.
Is screening recommended for women who have a high risk of epithelial ovarian cancer?
For women at high risk of epithelial ovarian cancer, such as women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, periodic tests to check for ovarian cancer may be recommended. These tests include transvaginal ultrasound to look for changes in the ovaries and measurement of CA 125 levels. CA 125 is a substance made by tumor cells. It sometimes is increased in women with ovarian cancer.
What are the symptoms of epithelial ovarian cancer?
If you have any of the following symptoms, and they do not go away, are frequent, or get worse over time, you should contact us:
• Bloating or an increase in abdominal size
• Pelvic or abdominal pain
• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
If you have frequent or persistent symptoms of ovarian cancer, you will usually have a physical exam, including a pelvic exam. An imaging test of the ovaries, such as a transvaginal ultrasound exam, may be done. The level of CA 125 in your blood may be measured.
The only way to tell for certain that a woman has ovarian cancer is with a biopsy. In a biopsy, tissue is removed during surgery and is tested for cancer.
How is ovarian cancer treated?
According to our GYN doctors who serve women in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Portsmouth, treatment is based on the stage of the cancer and how much the cancer has spread outside the ovary. Epithelial ovarian cancer has four stages. Stage I is the least advanced stage. Stage IV is the most advanced stage. Cancer grade also is important in ovarian cancer treatment. Ovarian tumors are graded as low-grade or high-grade.
If a woman is thought to have ovarian cancer, surgery and other tests are needed to find out the state and grade of the cancer. Usually, surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) and the ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy) is performed. Lymph nodes and tissue from the abdomen may be removed. Surgery may be followed by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs that kill cancer cells.
What tests are used to find out if the cancer has spread?
To find out whether the cancer has spread, imaging tests such as a colonoscopy, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, and chest X-ray may be done. If possible, it is best that a doctor specially trained or experienced in cancer, such as a gynecologic oncologist, performs the surgery and evaluates the test results.
What type of follow-up is needed after treatment?
Women treated for cancer of the ovary need to have regular checkups, including exams and blood tests to check CA 125 levels. Other tests, including ultrasound, chest X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, or computed tomography, also may be done.
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Please contact our GYN Clinic at (757) 312-8221 or by clicking here if you have questions about ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, a Pap test, or pelvic exam.
About our GYN Clinic
Our all-female practice covers a wide spectrum of health issues, including ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, a Pap test, or pelvic exam. Since 2004 our GYN doctors at Gynecology Specialists have been caring for women and teens in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Peninsula, Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads and North Carolina.