Overview, symptoms, causes, and treatment of ovarian cancer

An Overview of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is common cancer afflicting women and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in developed countries including Singapore. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, it is the 5th most common cancer in women and the incidence continues to increase over the years. It is also known as the silent killer. Please keep reading to know the symptoms, causes, and treatment.

This is a growth of cells that emerges in the ovary, the female body part responsible for producing eggs. These cells rapidly increase and can attack and destroy body tissues. Moreover, there are different types of ovarian cancer, depending on where it begins. They include; epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell tumors, and stromal tumors.

The Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are mostly not evident from the beginning. Hence, you might fail to notice them since they can be few or not present at all in the early stages.

Furthermore, some of the symptoms in the early stages might be similar to those of other conditions, e.g., temporary issues with the bladder, premenstrual syndrome, or irritable bowel syndrome. The difference, however, is that when it is ovarian cancer, the symptoms will be persistent and could even be worse. Also, when this cancer spreads within the abdominal cavity, you will notice the symptoms.

The following are the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer;

  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • Irregular menses
  • A rapid feeling of fullness when eating
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • The frequent urge of urination
  • Constipation
  • Feelings of discomfort in the pelvic area

If you observe these symptoms for two weeks or longer, it is important to see a doctor. Notably, the symptoms can change when ovarian cancer spreads to other body parts.

The Causesof Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs when the cells in the ovaries divide and multiply uncontrollably. Unfortunately, it is unclear why the cancer happens or what causes it. However, some factors can increase the risk of developing it and some of it is hereditary (genetic). These include;

  • Aging; most reported cases of ovarian cancer in Singaporean women affect those aged between 40 to 60 years.
  • Family history; when you have a close family member with a history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, you have a higher chance of developing the cancer.
  • Personal History of breast cancer; this increases risks as a result of changes in the BRCA gene.
  • Obesity or being overweight; females with a BMI above 30 are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Never experiencing pregnancy; women who have never had one or more full-term pregnancies have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • IVF Treatment is asociated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer

Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

You might be wondering, “is ovarian cancer treatable?” the good news is, yes, it is. However, the extent of its spread determines how successful the treatment can be.  Moreover, the treatment also depends on the size and type of the cancer, its location, and overall health of the patient.

The following are the types of treatment you may undergo;

  • Surgery;is the main treatment and aims at removing all the tumor including the uterus, both tubes and ovaries, draining lymph nodes and the omentum as well as any other areas of spreead in the cavity. Sometimes intstinal surgery is required as well if it is involved by cancer.
  • Chemotherapy; including Targeted therapy the medicine that destroys cancer cells. This is usually given after surgery to reduce risk of recurrence or to treat any residual cancer after surgery.

For some young women who have early cancer of the ovary, it is still possible to spare the uterus and the other normal ovary. These women can still go on to have children and survive the cancer. However this is a case by case basis and will also need lifelong follow-ups.


Ovarian cancers are treatable when diagnosed in the early stages.  It is advisable to go for regular screening. Do not ignore any suspicious symptoms and seek help early. If you have any doubts, make an appointment to see Dr Timothy for a check-up.

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