Understanding the Causes and Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

Early Detection is Key to Recovery
Published on Jan 23, 2020

Ovarian Cancer is known as the deadliest gynecologic cancer in the United States. The fact that symptoms aren’t usually detected or diagnosed until the disease has reached advanced stages make the illness more deadly.

According to the American Cancer Society, 22,240 women in the United States were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 14,070 women were projected to die from this illness in 2018. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and the optimal time to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of this disease.

Ovarian cancer symptoms include:

• Pain in the stomach or pelvis.
• Having trouble eating, or feeling full quickly.
• Recent, frequent bloating.
• Urinary problems, such as an urgent need to urinate or urinating more often than usual.

“It’s sometimes common for women to experience these symptoms and not have ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Farah M. Brasfield, regional chief of hematology oncology with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “However, if these symptoms are new, and you experience them on a daily basis for a time-period of two to three weeks, then it’s wise for you to see your doctor as it could be a sign of ovarian cancer. This disease typically affects women who are post-menopausal.”

Family history plays a big role in women developing ovarian cancer, as does the inheritance of gene changes that increase their chances of getting it, Dr. Brasfield noted.

How Ovarian Cancer is Diagnosed
It’s important to understand your medical history when determining whether you’re at risk for ovarian cancer, and to schedule a medical examination if there’s concern. An annual pap smear test doesn’t detect ovarian cancer. To detect ovarian cancer, a pelvic and rectal examination may be necessary. In addition, blood tests may be used to diagnose ovarian cancer.

“One way to determine if a woman has ovarian cancer is through biopsies taken during surgery,” Dr. Brasfield said. “That’s when tissue samples are removed and sent to a lab to determine if they contain cancer cells.”

How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?
Treatment of ovarian cancer is mainly done through surgery, where a doctor typically will remove one or both ovaries. Treatment often also includes chemotherapy, which may be given before or after surgery. Other options include targeted therapy , hormone therapy and immunotherapy.

“As is the case with other forms of cancer, treatment of ovarian cancer is most effective when diagnosed in its early stages,” Dr. Brasfield said. “That’s why testing is important, especially among women who have a history and/or experiencing menopause.”

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/

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