Can you be fully cured of ovarian cancer?
Around two in ten women with advanced-stage ovarian cancer are effectively cured and survive at least 12 years after the treatment as per the research. Your response to cancer therapy and chances for a cure depend on the type and the staging of ovarian cancer at the time of diagnosis.
- Epithelial cells: The type of cells that cover the surface of your ovary
- Germ cells: These cells make your eggs
- Stromal cells: These cells hold the structure of your ovary together and secrete the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone)
As per research studies, if a patient is given chemotherapy via the abdomen, then they have a greater than 50% chance to survive for the next six years. With this therapy, epithelial ovarian cancer can go into remission and recur. However, once it recurs, it is not curable and will continue to come back.
Germ cell and stromal tumors have a much better prognosis than the epithelial type. They are often curable because they are more likely to be detected at early stages.
Around two in 10 women with advanced-stage ovarian cancer are effectively cured and survive at least 12 years after the treatment.
How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
About 70% of epithelial ovarian cancers are not found until the disease has spread to other organs and reached an advanced stage.
Doctors use the following tests to diagnose ovarian cancer:
- Abdominal (pelvic) examination: The doctor feels the organs of the abdomen, particularly the uterus, vagina, ovaries, bladder, and rectum to feel for any extra growth (mass).
- CA-125 blood test: CA-125 blood test is a tumor marker test for ovarian cancer. This marker is found in increased levels in women with ovarian cancer. But it is more accurate in women after their menopause.
- Transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS): An ultrasound probe is inserted in the vagina and directed at the ovaries and uterus to look for any tumor.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan can be used to measure the tumor’s size and find out how much cancer has spread. It is specifically advised if CA 125 is raised.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI is used to measure the tumor’s size.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan: A PET scan may be combined with a CT scan and called a PET-CT scan. It may only be used for certain people with ovarian cancer to check for the spread of cancer.
- Paracentesis: If the doctor suspects that the fluid buildup (ascites) in your abdomen is due to ovarian cancer, he might draw out (aspirate) fluid and send it to the laboratory for analysis to check for cancer cells.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small sample from the ovary. This piece is sent to the laboratory to find out if the ovary is affected by cancer. This provides a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
- Molecular testing of the tumor: Molecular tumor testing can look for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, which are common in ovarian cancer.
How is ovarian cancer treated?
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will discuss with you the various treatment options and decide the most appropriate treatment for you. Often, you will be given a combination of treatments that include:
- Surgery: Surgery aims to remove the cancerous mass from your ovary. If cancer has spread extensively in your ovary, your doctor will remove the whole ovary. If cancer has spread to other reproductive parts such as a fallopian tube, your doctor will remove that too after discussing such possibilities before the surgery. If your surgery is in the very early stages or you want to have children, your doctor may not remove all your reproductive organs.
- Radiation: After surgery, your pelvic area may be exposed to high-energy X-rays that will help kill any cancer cells that still exist in the pelvic area.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is planned generally after the surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer cells or if ovarian cancer has spread to other organs.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that help in the growth of cancer.
- Hormone therapy: Your doctor might advise you to go for hormones or hormone-blocking medications. These are most often used in ovarian stromal tumors.
- Clinical Trials: You can ask your doctor if you can participate in clinical trials that test the use of new treatments for ovarian cancer.
How can you prevent ovarian cancer?
Research has shown that certain factors may help you to reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer. These factors include: