May 8th is World Ovarian Cancer Day. Ovarian cancer is one of the common cancers affecting women throughout their life.
This leads to cancerous growth occurring in the ovaries or called as the egg. The issue of this disease is quite significant. There were about 3 lac new cases of ovarian cancer worldwide.
As per the WHO statistics, the problem in India is also quite severe with nearly 37,000 new cases. Especially in India, the incidence has been increasing in the urban population. This cancer is usually common in the 5th or 6th decade of life but lately, we have been seeing women in their 30’s or 40’s getting detected with this cancer. The risk factors for this cancer could be late marriages, obesity, smoking, women receiving infertility treatment and family history of breast or ovarian cancer, pre-existing conditions like endometriosis. The previous history of an ovarian cyst may also be a risk factor.
About 18%-20% of these cancers are also hereditary, run in families, and are associated with a mutation in the BRCA gene.
The symptoms of this disease are mostly non-specific like pain in the abdomen especially during periods, bloating or swelling of abdomen, indigestion, increased frequency of urination, or passing motions.
Some types of ovarian cancers can also present with irregular bleeding or increased bleeding during one’s periods.
Unfortunately, there is no screening test available to detect this cancer, unlike cervical or breast cancer. But a yearly ultrasound test can be done, though not scientifically supported.
Other tests like a CT scan or MRI scan or tumor marker test may be done after someone is diagnosed with an ovarian tumor.
As medical science and technology progress more and more new treatment options are emerging for ovarian cancer. Surgery is still the cornerstone of the treatment. A good efficient, aggressive surgery done has the most important role to play giving the patient the survival benefit. Surgery might be followed by chemotherapy in certain cases. In cases of very advanced cancers, first chemotherapy with an aim to reduce the tumor load (known as Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy) followed by surgery might be offered to patients.
Newer treatment modalities like Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC), Targeted Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy have shown promise and may be beneficial in a certain well-selected group of patients.