What is Ovarian Carcinoma: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prognosis, Pathophysiology, Epidemiology, Complications

Ovarian Carcinoma is believed to be one of the main causes of death for women all over the world. The cause of ovarian carcinoma lies in genetics. Those women who have history of any sort of cancer in their family tend to have this type of cancer more easily. One fourth of the female death is triggered by ovarian carcinoma. Ever year almost 300,000 females are normally diagnosed of it and out of this 150,000 die.

What is Ovarian Carcinoma?

What is Ovarian Carcinoma?

Ovarian carcinoma is a kind of cancer that grows in the ovaries. It includes many various kinds of cancer that all rises from the cells of the ovaries. Most ordinarily, tumors develop from the lining cells or epithelium of the ovaries which causes fallopian tube, primary peritoneal and epithelial ovarian cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Carcinoma

Ovarian Carcinoma generally has handful symptoms in the early stages; even, in many cases, there are no traces of any kind of symptoms at all. Patients frequently categorize their symptoms to other medical conditions like irritable bowel movement, temporary bladder problem, premenstrual syndrome etc. The major difference between other possible disorders and ovarian carcinoma is the gradual and persistence worsening of the symptoms. The following are instances of possible early signs of ovarian carcinoma:

  • Pain on the lower portion of body
  • Pain in lower stomach
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • Back pain
  • Changes in the bowel habit like constipation
  • Pain during intercourse
  • More urgent and frequent urination
  • Heartburn or indigestion

With the progress of ovarian carcinoma, these signs are possible too:

If any person experience nausea, pain or pressure in pelvis or abdomen that stays more than few weeks then they should visit any doctor as early as possible to avoid unwanted events.

Epidemiology of Ovarian Carcinoma

Ovarian carcinoma is the fifth most usual and common cancer found in females. It has a lifetime danger of around 2% for female in Wales and England. It is definitely the leading reason of death from the gynecological cancer.

Elderly women have higher risk of ovarian carcinoma than younger women. The occurrence rates increases with the age and the peak is in 70s-80s; though the number of the cases is greatest in 60-70 age range. Average age at analysis is 61 years, hits the highest point at 75-79 yet it can be happen in any age.

Prognosis of Ovarian Carcinoma

Possibilities for surviving ovarian carcinoma differs based on the stage- how advanced the cancer actually is in time of examination.

Treatment for the ovarian carcinoma is the most effective when the illness is identified at its earlier stages before it actually spreads from the ovary to the other body parts. Doctors frequently discuss prognosis or outlook of a patient in terms of five year survival rates. For all ovarian carcinoma patients, the rate of five year survival is 45 percent. There are handful cases where ovarian carcinoma is diagnosed at its early stage. Females diagnosed before the age of 65 are likely to do better than those who are very much older at the time of analysis. However, survival rates cannot guess or guarantee what would occur in any individual female’s case. Several measures, along with general health and how well the ovarian carcinoma responds to the treatment, can even affect the prognosis.

Causes of Ovarian Carcinoma

Though it is well known that ovarian carcinoma like any other cancers, is mainly caused by the division and multiplication of the cells in an unregulated manner but it is little difficult to understand completely why ovarian carcinoma occurs. Let’s have a quick look on the causes that lead to ovarian carcinoma:

  • Fertility or Infertility Treatment as a Cause for Ovarian Carcinoma: Some studies have shown that infertility treatment poses higher risk of ovarian carcinoma. No one knows whether the risk is just due to the infertility or fertility treatments or both. One probable cause is the high amount of estrogen hormone used in the fertility treatment. It is said that increased ovulation can lead to ovarian carcinoma.
  • Ovarian Carcinoma Caused Due to Hormone Replacement Therapy: This therapy maximizes the risk of growing ovarian carcinoma in women. Experts opine that the risk maximizes the longer hormone replacement therapy continues and also returns to normal as early as treatment stops.
  • Breast Cancer Can Lead to Ovarian Carcinoma: Those females who have been spotted with the breast cancer have a great risk of developing ovarian carcinoma.
  • Family History as a Predisposing Factor for Causing Ovarian Carcinoma: It is definitely one of the major causes of developing cancer. Females with close relatives, who have had ovarian carcinoma, have a greater risk of growing cancer in comparison to other females.

Pathophysiology of Ovarian Carcinoma

Almost all studies of pathophysiology of ovarian carcinoma contained the concept that it starts with dedifferentiation of the cells covering the ovaries. During the ovulation, all these cells can be combined into the ovaries, where they can increase. New evidence shows that the majority of all these tumors form in fimbria of the fallopian tubes.

Ovarian carcinoma spreads to the omentum and peritoneal surfaces. Spread can happen by the intraperitoneal implantation, lymphatic invasion, local extension, transdiaphragmatic passage or hematogenous dissemination. Intraperitoneal dissemination is the most recognized and common characteristic of ovarian carcinoma. Malignant cells can also implant anywhere in the peritoneal cavity.

The mechanism of the dissemination represents the rationale to direct debulking surgery, surgical staging, and intraperitoneal administration of the chemotherapy. Hematogenous spread is unusual early on the illness procedure, though it is not uncommon in patients with the advanced disease.

Complications of Ovarian Carcinoma

Cancer treatment can trigger other health issues. If you or your close one is going through ovarian carcinoma treatment, be aware of the probable complications you can face.

  • Menopause and loss of fertility
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Infection
  • Kidney damage
  • Leukemia
  • Hearing loss
  • Neuropathy
  • Perforations
  • Hernias
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bone thinning
  • Rashes on feet and hands.

Risk Factors for Ovarian Carcinoma

Many factors can raise your risk of getting ovarian carcinoma, though some females get ovarian carcinoma without having high risks. The risk factors for the ovarian carcinoma include:

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Using estrogen therapy after the menopause
  • Use of the fertility drugs
  • Having inherited mutation in the BRCA2 or BRCA1 genes
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Having a close family member with colon, breast or ovarian cancer
  • Giving birth for the first time after the age of 35 or having never given birth.

Diagnosis of Ovarian Carcinoma

Normally an expert doctor would carry out a vaginal examination and also check for any sort of visible irregularities in the ovaries or uterus. He/she would even check the medical history as well as family history of the patient. After the diagnosis of the ovarian carcinoma, the doctor would identify its grade and stage. The stage of the cancer denotes to the spread of the cancer and the grade denotes how the cancer cells actually look under the microscope – whether they look similar to the normal cells or they are malignant in appearance. By classifying the grade and the stage of ovarian carcinoma, the doctor would be capable to decide which will be the best treatment. The grade and stage of ovarian carcinoma alone cannot guess how it is going to grow.

The following examinations are used to identify ovarian carcinoma:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood test
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Colonoscopy: It is done if the patient has constipation or has had bleeding from the rectum. The doctor might suggest a colonoscopy to test the colon or large intestine to check if it has been affected. Though this examination is not always used to determine the condition.
  • Abdominal Fluid Aspiration: If the abdomen of the patient is swollen only then this test is performed. A buildup of the fluid in abdomen may indicate that the ovarian carcinoma has spread.
  • Laparoscopy: In this case, a small incision is made in the abdomen to insert the laparoscope into the patient’s body to check the condition of the carcinoma.

Treatment for Ovarian Carcinoma

Treatment for Ovarian Carcinoma

Treatment for ovarian carcinoma consists of chemotherapy, surgery, combination of chemotherapy with surgery and sometimes, radiation therapy as well.

Though the kind of treatment is completely based on several measures, in addition to the type of ovarian carcinoma, its grade as well as stage and of course general health of the patient.

  • Chemotherapy Treatment for Ovarian Carcinoma: Chemotherapy treatment uses chemicals to destroy the cancer cells. Cytotoxic drugs that are very much poisonous to the cells prevent the cancer cells from dividing and developing. Chemotherapy for ovarian carcinoma is used to target the cancer cells that surgery did not or cannot eliminate. Treatment generally includes 3-6 sessions of chemotherapy that would be provided 3-4 weeks apart, offering the body some time to get better. If the cancer recurs, chemo might be given again to prevent it.
  • Surgery for Ovarian Carcinoma: Surgical eradication of the cancer cells is done in majority of ovarian carcinoma cases, and it is probably the very first treatment method which a patient will have to go through. Unless the ovarian carcinoma is quite low grade, the patient would need a wide operation which contains the elimination of ovaries, the omentum, uterus, fallopian tubes and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Hormone Therapy as a Method to Treat Ovarian Carcinoma: It may be added to the plan of the treatment just for preventing estrogen from reaching the cancer cells. Cutting off the supply of the estrogen slows the growth of the cancer cells.
  • Radiotherapy to Treat Ovarian Carcinoma: Though radiation is something that is less used in the treatment of ovarian carcinoma because it is not usually believed an effective one; it might be used if there are minimum traces of the cancer in the reproductive system and to treat the signs of advanced cancer.

Lifestyle and Coping with Ovarian Carcinoma

It is difficult to accept and cope with the news of having cancer. The treatment itself is also painful and difficult to adjust with. Along with the treatment what is important is to lead a good and healthy lifestyle by making healthy choices of food and doing physical activities that are advised by the doctor. It is important that despite the physical and emotional ups and downs due to cancer one must stay healthy and feel optimistic and positive. This could be a time to look at the life in a new manner. It is recommended to give up chewing tobacco, alcohol, quit smoking. One must eat healthy to stay fit and exercise regularly to retain the strength and stamina.


Ovarian carcinoma can be cured if it is diagnosed at the early stage. So whenever you experience any of the mentioned symptom seek medical attention immediately without delay. However, if diagnosed at an advanced stage, the prognosis is only 45%. Yet, with every case the survival rate varies and the treating doctor is the best person to evaluate it. With proper treatment and lifestyle management one can easily cope with the situation

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 9, 2018

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