Cancer results from the proliferation of mutated cells in the body, creating tumors and spreading to other parts of the body and leading to serious complications if not caught in time.
There are many different types of cancer that affect and kill millions. In 2020, over 1.8 million people were newly diagnosed and over 600,000 people died in America alone. Some cancers are more common than others, including colon, breast, lung, skin, bladder, kidney, and genital cancers.
Of the cancers that affect the reproductive system, ovarian cancer is a serious condition. The American Cancer Society estimated that nearly 20,000 women will be diagnosed this year, and over 13,000 women will die from ovarian cancer.
To complicate matters further, there are many misconceptions about this form of cancer. Let’s put some of these myths to rest by examining the basics of ovarian cancer, its symptoms, and what people often get wrong about it.
In the Lake Mary, Florida, area, women dealing with signs of ovarian cancer or other reproductive issues can find help from board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Christopher Quinsey and our dedicated medical team.
The basics of ovarian cancer
The main problem with most forms of cancer is the rate at which mutated cells grow and destroy healthy tissue.
When the cancer cells develop, they contain information in their DNA instructing them to mutate, grow faster than healthy cells, and spread to other areas outside of the ovaries, a process known as metastasis.
This cancer comes in a few different types:
- Epithelial ovarian cancer, which is the most common
- Stromal cancer, which is usually diagnosed early
- Germ cell cancer, a rare type that often occurs at a younger age than the others
Stages and symptoms
This cancer damages the body in four stages, beginning in one ovary in the first stage and moving to other body parts until it spreads throughout the body, reaching the brain and other organs in the fourth stage.
The symptoms differ depending on the stage you’re at and can include:
- Pain, pressure and bloating in your abdomen
- Difficulty eating
- Excessive urination in the early stages
- Weight loss, painful sex, menstrual irregularities, and constipation in later stages
What people get wrong
Here, we bust some common myths about ovarian cancer:
Myth: Ovarian cysts are cancer
Fact: Cysts are actually quite common in menstruating women. These are called functional cysts. There are other types of benign (noncancerous) cysts that form on your ovaries that disappear without treatment. A cyst on your ovaries does not mean cancer.
Myth: Pap smears can catch ovarian cancer
Fact: Your annual well woman exam typically includes a Pap smear, which checks for cancer, but ovarian cancer this isn’t one of them.
The Pap smear tests for cervical cancer. It’s not designed to examine the ovaries. Blood work, ultrasound, and other options are better designed to look for this cancer.
Myth: You won’t get it if you have no family history
Fact: There’s no direct correlation between getting this disease and your family’s genetic history in most cases. About 10% of women with this cancer have family members who also struggle with it, and more often than not, the cause of it is not known (idiopathic).
Myth: Ovarian cancer can’t be cured
Fact: Because the symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions, ovarian cancer may not be caught until a late stage. And in later stages, the survival rate could be under 50%, depending on the type of ovarian cancer and the stage. The high mortality rate is likely the source of this myth.
Even if we do only catch ovarian cancer in its later stages, there are treatment options available. Yes, it’s harder to treat, but it isn't a death sentence.
This disease is scary enough without dealing with misconceptions concerning it, so get the facts about ovarian cancer and make an appointment with Dr. Quinsey today to discuss your symptoms and get treatment.