A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Ovarian cancer: 4 things you should know

Woman laughing and enjoying coffee - Ovarian cancer, myths and facts

This rare, yet aggressive cancer has many misconceptions about it – starting with the name ovarian cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 22,000 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer every year – ranking fifth in cancer deaths among women.

This rare, yet aggressive cancer has many misconceptions about it – starting with its name.

It is not always cancer of the ovaries

“Most of the cancers we describe as ovarian cancer arrive from the fallopian tubes,” said Dr. Dale Larson, gynecological oncologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “You can have ovarian cancer and have normal ovaries.”

There is a lining, almost like saran wrap, that covers all the organs in the pelvis. This lining is the typical cause of this cancer, which can form in the:

  • Fallopian tubes
  • Omentum
  • Pelvic peritoneum
  • Ovaries

Genetics plays a larger role than talcum powder

Despite the many warnings, talcum powder does not have a correlation with ovarian cancer.

“It has been disproven on several occasions,” said Larson. “Talcum powder is not carcinogenic, so it cannot cause cancer.”

Much like for breast cancer, being positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic abnormalities can also lead to an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

  • BRCA1 positive: 44 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer
  • BRCA2 positive: 20-22 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer

Women of Ashkenazi Jewish decent have a higher rate of these genetic abnormalities, so especially have an increased risk. Talk to your primary care provider before considering genetic testing.

Unexplained weight gain can be a sign

Most ovarian cancer is found at stage three, which means it has spread to the abdomen in some way.

You should tell your primary care doctor if you have vague pain in your pelvic region or have unexplained weight gain in your abdomen. If you have ovarian cancer, 2-3 gallons of fluid can build up in your abdomen.

From the first time you have symptoms, it usually takes 4-6 weeks to get a diagnosis. This cancer also can be found during a pelvic exam with an ultrasound or CT.

Chemotherapy and surgery are the typical treatment

A mix of chemotherapy and surgery is the typical course of treatment.

During surgery, the tumors would be removed. In many instances this can include removing non-essential organs or lymph nodes such as the ovaries or cervix.

Depending on your treatment plan, you may receive intravenous chemotherapy before and/or after your surgery.

For more information about ovarian cancer, talk with your primary care provider.

4 Comments
  1. Oct 19, 2018
    • Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor Oct 19, 2018
  2. Oct 18, 2018

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