Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: A doctor will carry out a vaginal examination and check for any visible abnormalities in the uterus or ovaries. They will also check the patient’s medical history and family history.
Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment:
After a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, the doctor will want to identify its stage and grade.
The stage of a cancer refers to the cancer’s spread while the grade refers to how the cancer cells look under the microscope – if they are similar in appearance to normal cells or if they look malignant.
By identifying the stage and grade of cancer, the doctor will be able to decide on the best treatment.
The stage and grade of ovarian cancer alone cannot predict how it is going to develop.
For Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment, the following tests are used to diagnose ovarian cancer:
- Blood test.
- Laparoscopy – a laparoscope (a thin viewing tube with a camera at the end) is inserted into the patient through a small incision in the lower abdomen.
- Colonoscopy – if the patient has had bleeding from the rectum or is constipated, the doctor may order a colonoscopy to examine the large intestine (colon). This test is not always used.
- Abdominal fluid aspiration – this is done if the patient’s abdomen is swollen. A buildup of fluid in the abdomen might indicate that ovarian cancer has spread.
- CT scan.
Treatment for ovarian cancer
Treatment for ovarian cancer consists of surgery, chemotherapy, a combination of surgery with chemotherapy, and, sometimes, radiotherapy.
The kind of treatment depends on many factors, including the type of ovarian cancer, its stage, and grade, as well as the general health of the patient.
A surgical removal of the cancer is done in the vast majority of ovarian cancer cases and is often the first treatment the patient will undergo.
Unless the ovarian cancer is very low grade, the patient will require an extensive operation that includes the removal of both ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, nearby lymph nodes, and the omentum (a fold of fatty tissue in the abdomen).
This operation sometimes referred to as a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy will mean that the woman will begin her menopause immediately.
If the cancer is confined to just one of the ovaries, the surgeon may just remove the affected ovary and the adjoining fallopian tube. The woman will have a chance of being able to conceive. If both ovaries are removed, it will not be possible to conceive.
This type of surgery requires a stay in hospital of 3-7 days, plus a recovery period of at least 4-6 weeks when the patient gets home.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals (medication) to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic medication (drugs that are poisonous to cells) prevents cancer cells from dividing and growing. Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, as well as most other cancers, is used to target cancer cells that surgery cannot or did not remove.
Treatment usually involves 3-6 chemotherapy sessions (called cycles) which will be given 3-4 weeks apart, giving the body time to recover. If cancer returns or begins to grow back again, chemotherapy may be given again to shrink it.
Newer medications are being developed that target specific pathways (or necessary functions) in cancer cells directly. These medications include bevacizumab (Avastin) and olaparib (Lynparza). Their advantage over traditional chemotherapy is that they limit damage to normal cells, therefore reducing common side effects.
Hormone therapy may be added to the treatment plan in order to prevent estrogen from reaching the cancer cells. Cutting off its supply of estrogen slows cancer cell’s growth.
Monitoring response to chemotherapy
Tests will be carried out to determine how well the chemotherapy is working. This will include blood tests and imaging scans to see if the tumors have shrunk. Sometimes the surgeon may want to have another look inside.
If all tests are clear of cancer, it is referred to as “in remission” – the cancer is under control.
If cancer is still present after chemotherapy treatment, doctors will switch to other treatments.
Side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells. Unfortunately, healthy rapidly dividing cells, such as red and white blood cells, and hair follicles may also be affected.
The severity and type of side effects depend on the kind of medication, a number of treatments, and some aspects of the patient and their general health. Side effects can include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Infections because the white blood cell count is low (leucopenia)
In the vast majority of cases, the damaged healthy cells repair themselves rapidly after treatment is over and the side-effects soon disappear.
Radiation is less often used in ovarian cancer treatment – it is not generally considered effective. It may be used if there are small traces of cancer in the reproductive system, or to treat the symptoms of advanced cancer.
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