A few years ago I was asked if I knew what the most deadly gynecologic cancer was and I answered “Well, breast cancer of course.” Oh, how I was wrong. The American Cancer Society estimates that the average five year survival rate of breast cancer at any stage to actually be 89 percent. While no cancer is good that’s a pretty good rate. The correct answer to the question is ovarian cancer, and its five year survival rate (estimated by the American cancer society) is only 46 percent. We need to find out why this cancer is so deadly.
Cancer is a dangerous and mysterious thing to people ovarian cancer symptoms that don’t know much about it. Well, everyone is made up of cells, cells are what make up tissue and tissue is what makes up our organs. Normally when a cell gets old and tired it dies just like we do and a new cell takes its place. Our body produces these new cells by growing and dividing healthy cells. Sometimes our body overproduces cells and this is when tumors (mass of tissue) are formed. These tumors aren’t always cancer; when they are not they are called benign tumors. When they are cancer they are call malignant; these are the ones that can be life-threatening. Both types of tumors can be removed but the cancerous ones are more likely to grow back and only they also can spread to different parts of your body. When this happens the cancer cells are breaking away from the original tumor and entering the blood stream to use it like a highway to travel around your body. When the cancer cells spread like this it’s called metastasis and the cancer can start to go new tumors. If these cells reach any of your organs and start to go new tumors and this is when damage can be done.
They call it ovarian cancer because the tumor first starts at the ovaries and is made up of over productive ovarian cells. The ovaries are part of the women’s reproductive system and are attached to the uterus by the fallopian tubes. When a malignant tumor starts to grow these areas can also be affected because of their close proximity to the ovaries. When this tumor starts to shed cancer cells the cells typically go to the abdomen first because it’s closest to where the reproductive system is located. Then as I said before the cancerous cells can start to affect your lymph nodes and enter your blood stream to travel to different organs.
Ovarian cancer is so deadly because it’s very hard to detect. Every year more than 14,600 women die from ovarian cancer in the United States. This may not seem like a lot when you think of all the billion people that live here but when about 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year that number seems like a lot. So this means that on average 7 out of 10 women will die from this disease and this is all because it is so hard to detect. In order to detect it you have to know what the symptoms are. The most common symptoms are pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back or legs because of where the cancer is located in your body. You can also have a swollen or bloated abdomen because it can fill up with fluids. You will also feel very tired all the time and would have some nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation, or even diarrhea. Some less common symptoms would be shortness of breath, the urge to urinate often, and unusual vaginal bleeding. Now these are pretty general symptoms and many other disease or illnesses can cause them and that’s why it’s so hard to detect because ovarian cancer is not typical the very first thing we think of when we have one or more of these symptoms.