Ovarian tumors are a dangerous disease that affects women at any age, but most often occur at the beginning of the menopause, i.e. between 50 and 70 years. Ovarian tumors are often without symptoms. Symptoms appear at later stages when the tumor is large or affects the surrounding organs. That is why it is necessary to regularly visit your gynecologist to early detect ovarian tumors and start with treatment in time.
Ovaries are a pair female sex organ stored in the pelvis on both sides of the uterus. The main function of the ovaries is the production of female sex hormones, estrogens and progestogens and the production of female gametes, eggs. During each menstrual cycle a mature egg is released during a phase called ovulation and it enters the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized by male gametes, sperm. Like all organs, the ovaries can also grow tumors. This is a very heterogeneous group of tumors, often lying on the border between malignant and benign.
Cause of ovarian tumors
Generally, tumors arise by a mutation in the genetic information in healthy cells which begin to proliferate rapidly and uncontrollably. Healthy cells have programmed the time when they should die in their genetic information. Due to a mutation the time of death is reprogrammed and it is canceled. Therefore, the tumor grows and increases its size. Cancer cells invade the surrounding tissues and can spread throughout the body. Ovarian tumors are divided into malignant and benign.
Benign ovarian tumors
Benign ovarian tumors grow slowly and usually do not invade into the surrounding tissues and organs. They stay only on the ovaries. The main representatives of benign ovarian tumors are cystoms. They are quite large, they can push the surrounding tissues (the bowel or urinary tract), and interfere with their function.
Malignant ovarian tumors
Malignant ovarian tumors are characterized by rapid and aggressive growth. They invade surrounding tissues and organs, and form the so-called metastasis and spread throughout the body. The type of the ovarian tumor is determined by a doctor by removing a sample from the tumor that is sent for analysis to the laboratory.
Risk factors of ovarian tumors
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include early onset of menstruation and late menopause. More often are affected women who did not give birth or were first pregnant after 35 years. It is thus the result of the prolonged and uninterrupted ovulatory cycle. Certain protective effect has the long-term use (at least five years) of hormonal contraception, the essence of which is preventing ovulation. It is therefore assumed that the fewer menstrual cycles and ovulations in a female's life, the lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Another very significant risk factor is genetics. If there is a family history of breast cancer or an other organ, the risk of ovarian cancer increases. Also smoking and drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer.
Symptoms of ovarian tumors
Due to the position of the ovaries this disease is asymptomatic for a long time. Symptoms begin to appear at a later stage, when the tumor is large or has spread to the nearby organs. The most common symptom of ovarian cancer is pain in the abdomen and pelvis, bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, loss of appetite and unexplainable weight loss. Also frequent urination and bleeding outside the menstrual cycle can appear. As the tumor grows on the ovaries, small parts are released, called metastasis, and they invade surrounding organs such as the intestines, abdominal wall and the liver. These metastases produce a fluid that accumulates in the abdomen, the belly expands starts to hurt and a so-called ascites is formed.
Diagnosis of ovarian tumors
The basic methods for the examination of suspected ovarian tumors include gynecology, ultrasound, laboratory, surgical and imaging examination. During a gynecological examination the doctor checks the genitals by palpation and the cervix using a mirror. During the ultrasound examination the doctor checks the size, shape and arrangement of the ovaries, uterus and other organs in the pelvis. Laboratory tests examine blood samples for the presence of oncomarkers. By surgical examination it is meant that a doctor checks the abdominal and pelvic organs for the presence of suspicious tissues or tumors, and sends a sample to the laboratory to determine its nature, whether it is malignant or benign. Imaging techniques include CT, or computed tomography, MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging and X-ray. CT is a diagnostic method based on the X-ray radiation that permeates the patient's body from many angles. A computer that is connected to the X-ray creates the resulting image of a body part that the doctor needs to examine. Magnetic resonance works on the same principle, but instead of using X-ray magnetic field is used. To exclude that the ovarian tumors spread in to the chest, X-ray is performed on the heart and lungs.
Treatment of ovarian tumors
The treatment of ovarian tumors is a combination of surgery and subsequent chemotherapy. The role of the operation is to remove the most of the tumor and metastases. For young women who have no children and are planning pregnancy, it is possible in an early stage of the disease to remove only the affected ovary while leaving the second ovary and the uterus. Standardly, however, both ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, appendix and lymph nodes are removed. After the operation the nature and extent of the disease is clearly confirmed and is followed by chemotherapy. In chemotherapy cytostatic drugs are served that destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells.
Ovarian tumor prevention
Given that ovarian cancer is asymptomatic in its early stages, it is important to undergo gynecological examinations regularly, especially women over 40 years. Women who used hormonal contraception have a lower risk of ovarian tumors. Prevention is also to maintain a healthy lifestyle with plenty of regular exercise. If the disease is identified in the initial stages is better treatable and increases the chances of a full recovery. Therefore, if you experience unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain and enlargement, you should see your doctor immediately.