Ovarian cancer is a complex disease. It is one of the most common gynecological cancers among Indian women. Having a better understanding of this cancer, with respect to its occurrence, prevalence, and types can help women catch it in its early stages and receive appropriate treatment.
When the normal cells in the ovaries undergo undesirable genetic mutations and start dividing uncontrollably, an abnormal mass of cells or tumor is formed. This is referred to as ovarian cancer.
As a part of the female reproductive system, ovaries are responsible for the production of eggs and hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Often, ovarian carcinoma may not cause any symptoms in the early stages, and even if it does it overlaps with the symptoms of other more common gynecological conditions. It is, therefore, important for women to not ignore any gynecological issues, especially if they are persistent, and see a doctor for a proper evaluation.
Ovarian cancer is one of the top five cancers among Indian women. This cancer type poses a significant health burden globally, too. In India, ovarian carcinoma is often diagnosed in advanced stages, as its symptoms are misleading and there are no standard screening protocols for its early detection. Undergoing regular health checkups and not ignoring any gynecological symptoms can help in the timely diagnosis and treatment of ovarian carcinoma.
Not all ovarian tumors are cancerous. In fact, the majority of ovarian tumors are benign, meaning they are non-cancerous. Benign ovarian tumors are not life-threatening and can be treated with conservative measures or may not require treatment at all. However, if they are malignant, they will need immediate attention. In most cases, malignant ovarian tumors are treated with a comprehensive care approach, which will involve multiple treatment modalities.
Ovarian cancer isn't a single disease but comprises several types, each with distinct characteristics. This distinction is made based on the type of cell from which it arises.
This is the most common type of ovarian cancer, originating in the epithelial cells covering the ovary's surface. Epithelial ovarian cancer has excellent clinical outcomes, provided it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. Epithelial ovarian cancer is further classified into serous carcinoma, mucus carcinoma, endometroid carcinoma, and clear cell carcinoma depending on the type of cell from which they originate.
Ovarian adenocarcinoma, a subtype of epithelial ovarian carcinoma, is the most common type of ovarian cancer. Adenocarcinomas are cancers that originate in glandular cells of the ovaries. They have an excellent prognosis if they are detected and treated early.
These tumors develop from the connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together. Stromal tumors account for a smaller percentage of ovarian carcinomas but can still pose a health risk. Stromal tumors are slow-growing, and this is also one of the types of ovarian tumors with a better prognosis.
Germ cell tumors arise from the cells that produce eggs in the ovary. They are relatively rare and tend to affect younger women. However, early detection and treatment can result in favorable outcomes. This is one of the types of ovarian tumors that has a better prognosis, especially if it is diagnosed in the early stages.
SCCO is a less common and highly aggressive form of ovarian cancer. It typically requires intensive treatment due to its rapid growth.
Upon arriving at a definitive diagnosis, ovarian cancer staging is performed. Ovarian carcinoma staging is essential for determining the extent of the disease and planning appropriate treatment. The stages are categorized as follows:
In this early stage, cancer is confined to one or both ovaries. The disease is localized and has an excellent prognosis.
Cancer has spread beyond the ovaries but remains within the pelvis. The disease is still in its early stages and may require a comprehensive treatment approach for effective management.
Cancer has advanced to the abdominal lining or nearby lymph nodes. Stage 3 ovarian cancer will often require a comprehensive treatment approach.
This is the most advanced stage, indicating that cancer has spread to distant organs. In this case, multiple treatments are administered, and the treatment goal is to delay the disease’s progression and prolong survival.
Ovarian cancer staging is crucial for gyne-oncologists to tailor treatment plans and for patients to comprehend the prognosis.
Ovarian cancer is a complex disease with varying types and stages. Recognizing the differences among these types and stages is vital for early detection and effective treatment. By staying informed and proactive, individuals can empower themselves in the fight against ovarian carcinoma.