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Ovarian Cancer; Overview.

Ovarian cancer is the most fatal of all cancers involving a woman's reproductive tract. Most ovarian cancer develops after menopause; half of ovarian cancers are found in women older than age 63. Only 19 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the disease is confined to the ovary and is most easily treated. Women diagnosed in the early stages have a 90-95 percent chance of surviving at least five years.

About 76 percent of women with ovarian cancer survive one year after diagnosis, and 45 percent survive five years after being diagnosed. The survival rate drops as the stage of the cancer increases, with a less than 14 percent five-year survival rate in women whose cancer has spread beyond the abdomen. Younger women (below age 65) have a better five-year survival rate than older women.

An estimated 20,180 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 15,310 will die of the disease.

The ovaries are the part of the female reproductive organs that produce eggs every month during a woman's reproductive cycle. The ovaries are about the size and shape of an almond (1 1/2 inches long), but after menopause, they shrink to about half their original size. They are located on either side of the lower abdomen.

Women who still have periods can develop cysts on the ovary, which can be felt on a pelvic exam or seen via x-rays or other tests. They are rarely cancerous, particularly in younger women.

Cysts are less common in women who have already gone through menopause. If cysts occur in these women, they're more likely to be cancerous. A cyst or an enlarged ovary in a woman who has gone through menopause should always be evaluated quickly to make sure it is not a cancer.

In ovarian cancer, the cells of the ovary grow and divide uncontrollably. The cells may form a tumor on the ovary, parts of which can break off and spread to other parts of the body. Although ovarian cancer can spread throughout the body and affect other organs and systems (brain, lungs, breast and lymph nodes, for example), in most cases it stays in the abdomen and affects organs such as the intestines, liver and stomach.

There are many different types of ovarian cancer. Most (85 to 90 percent) cancers of the ovary come from the cells that make up the outer lining, and are called epithelial ovarian cancers. Although most epithelial ovarian cancers occur in women without a family history of the disease, about five to 10 percent of women with ovarian epithelial cancer have other family members who also had the same cancer.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer (particularly in its early stage) are often not obvious or intense. They include:

pelvic or abdominal pain, pressure or discomfort

vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea and indigestion

frequency and/or urgency of urination in absence of an infection

changes in bowel habits

weight gain or loss; particularly weight gain in the abdominal area

pelvic or abdominal swelling, bloating or a feeling of fullness

back or leg pain

pain during intercourse

ongoing fatigue

unusual vaginal bleeding

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 94 percent of women surveyed who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer had symptoms in the year prior to their diagnosis, and 67 percent had recurring symptoms.


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Keywords: Endometrium,Keloids,Malignant,Nicotine,Anti-La,Breast implant
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Title Annotation:care and treatment
Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Ovarian Cancer
Article Type:Disease/Disorder overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 30, 2006
Previous Article:Ovarian Cancer; Key Q&A.
Next Article:Ovarian Cancer; Diagnosis.

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