Ovarian cancer is a term used to describe when a malignancy forms in one of the ovaries, which are two small organs that sit on both sides of the uterus and produce eggs. A malignancy can begin in the stromal, germ, or epithelial cells within the ovaries.
Stromal cells make the structure of each ovary, germ cells are those that evolve into egg cells, and the epithelial cells are those that make up the outer layer of the ovaries.
Malignancy of an ovary is caused by an acquired or spontaneous genetic mutation that causes cells to grow and multiply beyond control. Genetic factors and variation make some individuals more susceptible to ovarian cancer development than others.
Diagnosis is made with blood tests, CT scans, PET scans, MRI, and a biopsy. Treatment typically involves the use of surgery combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer produces numerous warning signs. Learn about them now.
1. Feeling Full Fast
An individual affected by ovarian cancer has malignant cells that are rapidly growing and dividing in their lower abdomen. When cancerous cells begin to take up space the individual’s intestines and other abdominal organs would be occupying, they will experience symptoms related to abdominal organ compression.
An individual who feels full fast will lose their appetite after eating just a few bites of food. The stomach and intestines are muscular organs that expand to accommodate the food consumed before it is digested.
The abdominal organs and tissues surrounding the stomach and intestines are all contained within the abdominal fascia or compartment. The abdominal fascia can expand to a certain degree in conditions where tumors and food are taking up a large amount of space.
However, there is a limit to how much the compartment can expand. When this threshold is exceeded, the individual will feel discomfort when they put anything else into their digestive tract.
2. Abdominal Bloating
Abdominal bloating is when an individual has feelings of tightness and fullness in their belly, which may be distended or appear swollen. This is a normal occurrence in an individual who is healthy when they consume particularly gassy foods or when they are having their menstrual period.
However, ovarian cancer is a malignancy that produces persistent abdominal bloating. One of the most common symptoms and signs to occur with abdominal bloating in an ovarian cancer patient is weight loss.
The bloating that occurs because of ovarian cancer is the result of a condition referred to as ascites, which is when too much fluid builds up in the abdomen.
When malignant cells spread to the peritoneum or abdominal lining, fluid can accumulate. Ascites can also occur when cancer spreads to lymph nodes in the area and impairs their ability to remove extra fluids from the tissues.
3. Pelvic Discomfort and Pain
An ovarian cancer patient can feel pelvic discomfort and pain for many different reasons. Cancer in the ovary can spread to neighboring tissues like the uterus and cause the muscles that make up the uterus to contract inappropriately.
This mechanism produces a cramping pain in the lower pelvis that is comparable to the pain felt with menstrual cramps. If ovarian cancer spreads into the tissues that make up the bowels, patients can experience pain related to intestinal damage and improper functioning of the large intestine.
Ovarian cancer can metastasize to the bladder tissues, which would produce pain and urinary symptoms due to the inappropriate contraction of the bladder muscles and inflammation.
Ovarian cancer can cause patients to develop ascites or an abnormal accumulation of fluids in their abdomen, which will cause them to feel discomfort and pain because the organs and nerves in the pelvic area are being compressed.
4. Bowel Habit Changes
The ovaries are located very close to the large intestine in the upper pelvis and lower abdomen. This close proximity can make the bowels a particularly susceptible area for cancer cell invasion.
When ovarian cancer invades the bowel tissues, several new symptoms will appear that are related to intestinal damage, inflammation, and functional impairment.
Cancer that has gotten into the bowels can cause patients to have diarrhea if it causes damage to the lining of the large intestine. The lining of the large intestine absorbs fluid from the stool before it exits the body.
Cancer that invades an individual’s bowels from the ovaries can cause a full or partial obstruction of the colon, which causes stool to stay inside of the intestine for too long.
When stool does not move through the digestive tract fast enough, the large intestine may absorb too much fluid. This mechanism can cause the patient to become constipated.
5. Weight Loss
Weight loss occurs when an individual’s energy balance in the body becomes negative. An individual’s energy balance ratio is the number of calories they consume through their diet to the number they burn off.
When more calories are being consumed than are being burned off, the individual will have a positive energy balance. When fewer calories are being consumed than are being burned off, the individual has a negative energy balance.
When the cells in the body run out of calories to use to produce their energy, they use adipose tissues to make energy. When excess adipose tissue is used to produce energy, the individual will lose body mass due to decreased body fat.
An ovarian cancer patient will often have a negative energy balance and lose weight because the cancerous cells that are constantly growing and rapidly dividing are using up all of the calories being consumed through their diet.