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Early Detection Key to Beating Ovarian Cancer

Gynecological oncologists say that acknowledging early warning signs of ovarian cancer is the key to surviving the disease that claims nearly 15,500 lives each year.

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women, and more than 21,650 new cases will be diagnosed in 2008, according to the American Cancer Society.

The ovaries, two small, almond-shaped organs located in the female pelvis, produce the hormones that regulate a woman's menstrual cycle and eggs for fertilization. Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in one or both ovaries begin growing at an uncontrollable rate.

Ovarian cancer is extremely difficult to detect at early stages and can quickly spread to surrounding organs. If it goes untreated, ovarian cancer can result in death. However, if it is detected at an early stage before spreading, the patient can survive with appropriate treatment. It is important that a woman consults her gynecologist if she has abnormal symptoms, such as pelvic discomfort, abdominal bloating, indigestion, and starting to bleed again, especially for women who have already gone through menopause. Researchers believe that genetics plays a major role in the development of ovarian cancer. In fact, 5 to 10 percent of all patients have a genetic link to the disease.

Expert Recommendations

These steps are recommended for the prevention and early detection of ovarian cancer:

What is on the Horizon?

Researchers have expanded their investigation down to the molecular level and are in the process of developing new tumor markers and better screening tests to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage. These researchers are also working to overcome drug resistance, discovering new chemotherapeutic agents, and performing clinical trials by using multiple agents, such as using chemotherapy given both intravenously and intraperitoneal. The other areas of research in clinical trials have focused on gene therapy, immunotherapy, and molecular targeted therapy.

This article originally appeared in UC Health Line (9/27/05), a service of the NetWellness.org Academic Health Center Public Relations Department and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2006.

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Last Reviewed: Sep 08, 2008

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Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati