Ovarian cancer: the causes, the symptoms and how to treat it

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The ovarian cancer It is the sixth most common type of cancer among women, with a rate of 4% to 5% of female tumors, according to data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer. Each year about 3,300 cases are diagnosed in Spain.

Last Tuesday the journalist Sara Carbonero announced that he had undergone surgery after having detected a malignant tumor in one of your ovaries. She herself reassured her followers on Instagram saying that the operation had gone well and that, fortunately, the disease was very incipient, although she will still have to receive treatment for a few months.

What is ovarian cancer?

The ovaries are responsible for produce ovules and certain female hormones, such as progesterone or estrogen, which prepare the uterus so that the egg can nest fertilization occurs, which is the beginning of pregnancy.

Our ovaries are located on both sides of the uterus and each is about the size of an almond, with an extension ranging from 2 to 4 centimeters. When we are born, they have a smooth surface, but with the passage of time they acquire roughness as a consequence of the scars that are formed when ovules are released into the uterus in each menstrual cycle.

Most of the detected cases of ovarian cancer They are diagnosed between 50 and 75 years, although from the age of 30 a significant number already exists. From the age of 60, a slow but steady rise in the disease is seen.

What are your causes?

Although the causes that can cause this type of cancer are still unknown, it is known that About 20% of ovarian tumors are associated with inherited genetic factors. These are mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are the ones that contain the information to generate the proteins responsible for DNA repair. Other factors that may increase the risk of ovarian cancer include:

  • Family background
  • Over weight
  • Early menstruation
  • Receive hormone replacement therapy in menopause
  • Smoking

In turn, several studies indicate that there are other factors that can increase protection against ovarian cancer, such as having children, breastfeeding or taking contraceptives.

What symptoms can manifest?

One of the dangers of ovarian cancer is precisely that it does not usually present any symptoms at its earliest stage. In fact, up to 75% of cases are detected in advanced stages of the disease. According to Ana Santaballa, an oncologist at the Hospital La Fe in Valencia and a member of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), “vague symptoms usually occur, such as abdominal pain, swelling, nausea or other nonspecific signs.” However, there are certain Signs that may occur with this disease:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Constipation
  • Feeling of weight in the pelvis
  • Vaginal hemorrhages
  • Abnormal menstrual periods
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained back pain that gets worse
  • Involuntary slimming

How is it diagnosed and what is the treatment?

Currently, there is still no effective method to make a early diagnosis of this tumor. Ultrasounds alone are not enough, and other tests performed in the gynecological reviews, like cytology, are not useful for cancer detection.

However, a genetic analysis It can help determine the risk of ovarian cancer. If there is a very high risk, you can consider the possibility of remove the ovaries to prevent the onset of the disease.

As for the treatment and medication of this type of tumor, extirpation, or exeresis, along with a chemotherapy treatment, usually offer a good prognosis. If cancer is detected in one of its early stages, surgical intervention is usually sufficient. The surgery usually involves the removal of one or both ovaries, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, or other structures of the abdomen.

The chemotherapy treatment It is prescribed after the operation to finish treating any remaining malignant cells that may have remained, as well as to prevent possible reappearances of the tumor. Currently, in addition, they are studying new biological therapies which are proving to be effective in the treatment of many cases in advanced stages.


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