What is Ovarian Cancer?

Florida Hospital Cancer Institute offers the latest and most effective treatment for ovarian cancer in Orlando for residents of Central Florida and the surrounding regions. Ovarian cancer begins in one or both of the ovaries each woman has, one on each side of the uterus. Not only do ovaries produce eggs for reproduction, but they are also the primary source of a woman’s female hormones. Ovarian cancer causes normal ovarian cells to grow at an uncontrolled and abnormal rate, resulting in tumors in one or both ovaries. To learn more about treatment for ovarian cancer in Orlando, or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 303-1700 or click here to fill out an online assistance form.

Ranking fifth in cancer deaths among women according to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 20,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in the United States each year. The Gynecologic Oncology Center treats more ovarian cancer patients than any other hospital in the region. It is well respected for its cutting edge treatments, expert care and caring team of physicians, specialists and nurses. In the case of ovarian cancer, early detection is critical. But since the disease can be difficult to detect, only 20% of ovarian cancers are discovered before they spread to other tissues and organs. As such, nearly 15,000 women die each year from ovarian cancer in the United States. However, new evidence has begun to show that ovarian cancer in its earliest stages may have symptoms. Understanding these signs can greatly improve the survival rate of this major killer. The Gynecologic Oncology Center treats all stages of ovarian cancer, combining the very best medical care available with leading edge clinical trials and holistic, patient-centered care. 

For more information about Ovarian Cancer, visit the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Florida's web site by clicking here.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer symptoms can often mirror other common conditions. As such, women may think they have digestive and bladder disorders rather than ovarian cancer. In stark contrast to these disorders where symptoms can come and go, the signs of ovarian cancer are constant and become worse over time. Studies are beginning to show that women who have ovarian cancer are more likely to experience the following symptoms than other women.

Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Abdominal pressure, bloating, swelling and fullness
  • Urinary urgency

Other ovarian cancer symptoms can include:

  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent gas, indigestion
  • Feeling nauseas
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Clothes feeling tighter around the waist
  • Painful intercourse
  • Lack of energy
  • Lower back pain

If you have one or more of these symptoms, tell your care provider at the Gynecologic Oncology Center about them. Ovarian cancer can usually be detected within three to six months from the onset of the first ovarian cancer symptoms you experience. Since every woman is different, a consultation and exam at the first sign of symptoms is recommended so the best course of treatment can be determined.

 To learn more about treatment for ovarian cancer in Orlando, or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 303-1700 or click here to fill out an online assistance form.

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Causes of Ovarian Cancer

The causes of ovarian cancer continue to elude us. Some researchers think the increases in hormone levels before and during ovulation may cause the cells to become abnormal. Others think it has to do with the monthly tissue repair process that occurs when the egg is released through a tiny tear in the ovarian follicle during ovulation.

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Stages of Ovarian Cancer

The process to determine how far your ovarian cancer has spread to other tissues of the body is known as ‘staging.’ Ovarian cancer stages are determined through a diagnostic test such as a laparotomy or laparascopy. The results of the test are then compared against a scale, ranging from Stage 0 (early stage) to Stage 4 (late stage). Staging helps your doctor determine treatment options.

Stage 0 Ovarian Cancer - This is the earliest stage that cancerous cells in the ovaries can be detected. The cancer is just beginning to form and hasn’t yet spread.

Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer - Cancer is still confined to one or both ovaries. There are three sub-stages:

Stage 1A: There is cancer in one ovary and no cancer cells are present outside the surface of the ovary.

Stage 1B: Cancer has been detected in both ovaries but there are no cancer cells on the outer surfaces.

Stage 1C: Cancer has been found in one or both ovaries and cancer cells may be present on the surface of one or both of them; the outer wall of a cystic ovarian tumor has ruptured; or samples of tissue from the abdominal region have cancer cells.

Stage 2 Ovarian Cancer - Cancer has spread to other regions of the pelvis as well as being present in the ovaries. Other affected organs can include the uterus, fallopian tubes, bladder or rectum as well as the pelvis itself. Three sub-stages are used to determine the level of involvement:

Stage 2A: Cancer is present in one or both of the ovaries as well as the uterus and/or fallopian tubes. It is not yet in the abdomen.

Stage 2B: Cancer has been discovered in one or both ovaries and tests have shown it has spread into other pelvic organs such as the bladder, colon, uterus and rectum.

Stage 2C: There is cancer in one or both ovaries and cancer has been detected in the lymph nodes. There may also be deposits larger than ¾” across in the abdominal region.

Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer - Depending on the sub-stage, cancer is not only found in one or both ovaries but has spread to the abdominal lining and/or the lymph nodes. There are three sub-stages:

Stage 3A: In this sub-stage, cancer is present in one or both of the ovaries and there are also small amounts found in the abdomen.

Stage 3B: Cancer is present in one or both ovaries and cancerous cells in amounts less than ¾” have been found in the abdomen.

Stage 3C: Cancer is not only in one or both of the ovaries, but it has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. There are also cancerous cells in amounts greater than ¾” in the abdomen.

Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer - The most advanced form of ovarian cancer, cancer cells have been found in one or both ovaries and the cancer has spread to other organs such as the liver or the lungs.

Recurrent Ovarian Cancer - This term describes ovarian cancer that has returned following treatment.

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Types of Ovarian Cancer

The form of ovarian cancer you develop depends on its location on the ovary. There are three basic types:

  • Epitheal tumors. Approximate 85% to 90% of all ovarian tumors are epitheal tumors. These form in the epithelium, the thin outer layer of tissue on the ovaries. 
  • Germ cell tumors. These tumors are in the egg producing cells of the ovary. This type of ovarian cancer typically occurs in children and teens and is rare in comparison.
  • Stromal tumors. These tumors develop in the tissue that holds the ovary together and produce estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian Cancer Statistics

  • While ovarian cancer accounts for only 4% of all female cancers, it is estimated that nearly 22,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer of the ovaries every year and 15,510 will die from ovarian cancer.
  • Thankfully, early detection has increased the likelihood you will survive ovarian cancer. Nearly 175,000 women in the U.S. who have had a history of ovarian cancer in the past are considered cancer survivors today.
  • If the cancer is still localized in the ovaries, the five-year survival rate is 92.7%. If it has spread into the surrounding region, the survival rate is 71.1%. If it has spread beyond this region, the survival rate drops to 30.6%.

Pregnancy After Ovarian Cancer

Depending upon the treatment, women who have had ovarian cancer may still be able to conceive. For example, patients who have had just one ovary removed still have the chance to become pregnant because eggs can still be released by the remaining ovary.

Other factors may affect the ability to get pregnant after ovarian cancer, including the regularity of menstrual cycles, prior pelvic or appendiceal infections and endometriosis. Certain radiation and chemotherapies can also affect your ability to become pregnant. Of course, a hysterectomy or other procedure involving the uterus, vagina and cervix can make having a child through traditional means difficult or impossible.

If you are concerned about the ability to become pregnant following ovarian cancer, you should talk to your doctor about your options before a procedure is determined. That way you know all your options and how they will affect your ability to bear children in the future.

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Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer

The following risk factors can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer:

  • Age. The chance of getting ovarian cancer increases as a woman gets older. Ovarian cancer occurs in women over the age of 50 and the highest risk is in women over 60.
  • Childbearing. The more children you’ve had, the less chance there is you’ll get ovarian cancer. Conversely, women who have never had children are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who have had children.
  • Family history. If your mother, daughter or sister has had ovarian cancer, you face a higher risk. The risk increases if two or more women in your direct family have had ovarian cancer. The same is true if members of your extended family have had ovarian cancer, but to a slightly less extent. 
  • Other cancers. If you have had colon cancer or breast cancer, the chances of having ovarian cancer are greater than if you haven’t had these forms of cancer.
  • Some studies have shown that certain lifestyle and health choices actually decrease the risk of ovarian cancer. This can include breastfeeding, taking birth control pills, having an operation that prevents pregnancy such as a tubal ligation or a hysterectomy. Recent evidence even suggests that a low fat diet can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you’ll get ovarian cancer, only that you have a statistically higher chance of contracting it. If you have one or more risk factor, speak with your physician to see if there are ways you can change your lifestyle or habits to reduce the likelihood you’ll develop ovarian cancer in your lifetime.

Ovarian Cancer Research

Researchers around the world and at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute are working on a number of fronts to prevent, treat and cure ovarian cancer, hopefully within our lifetime.

Following are some of the most recent developments in cervical cancer research:

Inhibitors - Another promising treatment is the use of PARP inhibitors that act on a protein known as PARP. When another protein called BRCA malfunctions, PARP steps in and takes over so the cancer can survive. By inhibiting PARP, you can hopefully also inhibit ovarian cancer.

Gene Profiling - Another study is looking at analyzing the patterns of gene activity to predict an ovarian tumor’s response to different therapies. Where doctors used to think all ovarian tumors were alike, subtypes are being discovered and the effectiveness of treatment may vary by subtype.

Clinical trials are underway on a number of fronts. Currently, the National Cancer Institute lists nearly 400 trials underway for the most common form of ovarian cancer alone and the Gynecologic Oncology Center offers patients more clinical trial options than any other healthcare facility in the region. Ask your Gynecologic Oncology Center doctor about clinical trials being conducted at the center. For a complete list, click here

Hedge Hog Pathway Inhibitors: click here.

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Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

In most cases, your physician may recommend surgery to treat ovarian cancer. This procedure requires the removal of both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, and the lymph nodes. If a case of ovarian cancer is diagnosed early on, your physician may only need to remove one ovary and its fallopian tube. This may allow you to have children after the surgery. 

After the initial treatment of surgery in order to remove the bulk of the cancer, your physician will most likely recommend chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemo drugs may be injected into your vein, the abdominal cavity, or both. In some cases, chemotherapy may be used as the initial treatment. 

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Request an Appointment

To learn more about treatment for ovarian cancer in Orlando, or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 303-1700 or click here to fill out an online assistance form.

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