Ovarian cancer is a serious health concern for many American women today. According to recent statistics, ovarian cancer affects over 22,000 women each year, resulting in a large number of fatalities due to the complexity of the disease. Since it largely remains undiagnosed until it has reached more advanced stages, ovarian cancer accounts for more fatalities than any other type of female reproductive cancer that exists. Ranking fifth in cancer deaths among women, it is no surprise that many females are concerned about taking measures to detect the presence of ovarian cancer before it is too late.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
All types of cancer begin when individual cells within the body begin to grow and multiply in an out of control fashion. The cells in our body are constantly duplicating themselves in an orderly fashion. Cells also have a specific lifespan, after which they eventually die off. It is when this orderly process goes haywire that cancer of various types can develop.
Ovarian cancer simply refers to the out of control growth of cells within the ovaries of a female, leading to the formation of solid tumors. The tumors can continue to grow until they are capable of invading nearby structures and organs or infiltrating the lymph nodes and bloodstream. At this point, it is possible for the cancer to spread throughout the body, creating a health problem that is much harder to treat effectively. Ovarian cancer is one of a few types of cancer that frequently fails to display telltale symptoms until it has grown to a considerable size or begun to spread.
Who is Affected by Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer largely affects older women, although this is not always the case. Approximately 50% of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are aged 60 or older. However, this means that a considerable number of younger women are diagnosed with this disease as well. Additionally, ovarian cancer is slightly more common among Caucasian women than African American women, but all ages and ethnic groups can still develop the disease. Although the rates of ovarian cancer have declined some in the last couple of decades, it is still a relatively common but poorly understood disease that threatens the life of many American women today.
Risk Factors for the Development of Ovarian Cancer
Although researchers still do not fully understand why some women develop ovarian cancer when others do not, there are a number of specific risk factors that can affect a woman’s chances of developing this disease. Risk factors for ovarian cancer include the following:
As stated earlier, ovarian cancer generally occurs in women over the age of 60. About half of all those diagnosed with ovarian cancer fit into this age category.
* Specific inherited genetic mutations
Although research into genetic mutations continues to be performed today, there are some known genetic mutations that can influence a woman’s risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
* Hormone replacement therapy
Many women rely on hormone replacement therapy to help them through the difficult symptoms associated with menopause. However, these medications are also known to slightly increase the risk of hormone-related cancers, including ovarian and breast cancer.
* Having never experienced pregnancy
The number of menstrual cycles a woman has in her life also seems to affect her risk of developing ovarian cancer. As the number of menstrual cycles increases so does the level of risk. This means that pregnancy is a protective measure of lowering the risk of ovarian cancer to some degree since a woman does not generally have a menstrual cycle while pregnant.
The same can be said regarding a woman’s age at the time of her first menstrual cycle. The younger a woman is, the more cycles she will have during her reproductive years. Therefore, a young age at the time of a first menstrual cycle is associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Smoking has also been known to increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. Even if a woman currently smokes, stopping tobacco use can decrease her future odds of developing this serious disease.
There may be other factors that can influence a woman’s chances of developing ovarian cancer. Continued research needs to be done to determine what these factors are. It is important to note that the existence of some of these risk factors does not mean that a woman is sure to develop ovarian cancer. On the other hand, ovarian cancer can still occur even in those who did not experience risk factors for the development of the disease.
Certain Birth Control Methods
The use of some birth control methods such as intrauterine devices may result in a slightly increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. If a woman has other co-existing risk factors, she may wish to use other forms of birth control to mediate this risk.
Possible Symptoms Associated with Ovarian Cancer
While symptoms sometimes do not occur in early stages of ovarian cancer, it still makes sense to be aware of changes in the body that could indicate the presence of a serious problem. Some of the known symptoms of ovarian cancer include the following:
* Abdominal bloating
* Indigestion or nausea
* Pelvic pressure
* Changes in appetite
* Increased abdominal circumference
* Lethargy and fatigue
* Changes in the menstrual cycle
Any of these symptoms that persist more than a week or two should be evaluated by a medical professional to ensure that there isn’t a serious health condition causing the issues. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can be explained by less serious conditions of the digestive tract. For this reason, it is important to see a medical professional if any of these symptoms persist.
Issues with Current Testing and Treatment Protocols
There are two main issues that result in ovarian cancer typically being diagnosed at later stages. First of all, the abdomen is a fairly spacious area. This can allow tumors to grow to a substantial size before they lead to symptoms. This automatically means that ovarian cancer is often detected at a much later stage than some other forms of cancer where the tumors grow closer to the surface of the skin. Secondly, when a woman does experience symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, they can often be explained away as normal age-related occurrences or minor issues with the digestive tract. This may result in some women simply dismissing the symptoms as being minor or insignificant in nature.
Christine’s Ovarian Cancer Experience
One woman’s experience with ovarian cancer tells the story of how surprising this diagnosis is for millions of women affected by this disease. A woman we will call Christine demonstrates the atypical face of ovarian cancer, yet her story has the potential to change the way younger women view this disease.
Christine was only 30 years old when she began to experience sharp pains in her side. The pain was severe enough that her friends urged her to visit an emergency room to rule out appendicitis or another serious condition warranting emergency treatment. When medical professionals in the emergency room took a biopsy from Christine, they were shocked to learn that her symptoms were caused by ovarian cancer, not appendicitis. Christine did not fit the typical profile of an ovarian cancer patient. She had two young children at home and was still breastfeeding her youngest.
Once she completed the harsh treatment required for surviving this type of cancer, Christine had to be regularly followed by her oncologist to ensure the cancer didn’t return. A few short months after completing treatment, Christine and her doctors were shocked to learn the cancer had come back. She strengthened her resolve to fight the disease once more, with the loving support of her husband and friends. Christine’s experience demonstrates the importance of following up on questionable symptoms even if the woman experiencing them does not fit the typical profile of an ovarian cancer patient.
The Promising Face of Genetic Testing
When Christine’s cancer returned, she sought help from Cancer Treatment Centers of America. With the advanced genomic testing offered by CTCA, Christine’s doctors were able to determine the genetic profile of her specific tumors. By doing so, her medical team was able to better formulate a treatment protocol designed specifically for her type of cancer.
This type of genetic testing is promising to change the way medical professionals develop effective treatments for cancer and other serious diseases. If a medical team can dissect and fully understand a patient’s genetic makeup within their tumor, they can be much better equipped at creating and initiating specific treatments that fight that particular type of cancer.
By designing targeted treatment approaches of this nature, cancer patients have the opportunity to experience more effective treatments with fewer troubling side effects. Additionally, there is hope that through genetic testing we may be better able to understand which groups of people are more likely to develop these diseases in the first place. If medical professionals can more accurately determine who will develop these life-threatening conditions, they can take steps to begin screening for them at earlier ages and before symptoms arise. This type of modern advancement in the medical field has the potential to change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated, ensuring a much higher likelihood of successful treatment and recovery for many patients.
About Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is a network of five individual hospitals dedicated to integrative and holistic cancer treatment. Headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, CTCA facilities focus on treating the whole person, not just the disease.
While the integrative approach of Cancer Treatment Centers of America does utilize the traditional modes of therapy such as radiation and chemotherapy, they are also on the forefront of more scientifically advanced treatment options. Focusing largely on immunotherapy to help a patient’s immune system better target the cancer, as well as genetic testing to provide targeted therapies, CTCA remains a top treatment facility for those seeking holistic care.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America also provide advanced techniques and therapies to support those going through the treatment process. These include therapies to better manage pain, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, and lymphedema associated with cancer treatment.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America was originally founded by Richard J. Stephenson when his own mother was dealing with cancer. Mr. Stephenson found that he was unhappy with the treatment options given to his mother during her experience with cancer. He desired to create a medical facility that was able to provide the traditional modes of treatment along with more advanced options to make the process of dealing with cancer easier for patients and their families. Through this unique vision, Cancer Treatment Centers of America was born and came to be known as one of the most complete treatment facility options for cancer patients all over the United States.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America exist in five states throughout the country today, offering technologically advanced cancer diagnosis, treatment, and management options for patients and their loved ones. CTCA facilities can be found in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Oklahoma. These facilities have earned many rewards including the Top Performer and Magnet awards offered to only to some of the best medical treatment facilities in the country.
Ovarian cancer is a feared disease by many women throughout our country. This is due to the fact that it is often not diagnosed until it is at a more advanced stage or has possibly spread to more areas in the body. Since ovarian cancer affects as many as 22,000 women on an annual basis, it is no wonder that it poses a concern for so many people. Cancer Treatment Centers of America continue to be an important resource and continued source of hope for the millions of Americans who have received a cancer diagnosis or help care for a loved one with cancer.
The symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, when they are present at all, are relatively easy to pass off as an unrelated or insignificant disruption of the digestive tract. This puts many women at risk of not properly evaluating the cause of their bothersome symptoms, which further delays diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Genetic testing offers much hope for changing the way that serious diseases such as ovarian cancer are diagnosed and treated. The continued development of genetic testing and similar medical advancements can allow for earlier diagnosis and more targeted treatment options that ensure a better outcome. Cancer Treatment Centers of America continues to remain on the forefront of this exciting development in cancer treatment.