Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant or cancerous cells are found in the ovaries. An ovary is one of two small, almond-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus that store eggs or germ cells and produce female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body (in this case the ovary) begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.
Normally, cells in your body divide, and form new cells to replace worn out or dying cells and to repair injuries. Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to create new abnormal cells forming a tumor. Tumors can put pressure on other organs lying near the ovaries.
Cancer cells sometimes can travel to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process, called metastasis, occurs as the cancer cells move into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body. Cancer cells that spread from other organ sites (such as breast or colon) to the ovary are not considered ovarian cancer
There are many types of tumors that can start in the ovaries. Some are benign, or noncancerous, and the patient can be cured by surgically removing one ovary or the part of the ovary containing the tumor. Some are malignant or cancerous. The treatment options and the outcome for the patient depend on the type of ovarian cancer and how far it has spread before it is diagnosed.
What is the general outlook for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer?
In women age 35-74, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. An estimated one woman in 75 will develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed this year and that more than 15,000 women will die from ovarian cancer this year.
When one is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%. Due to ovarian cancer's non-specific symptoms and lack of early detection tests, only 19% of all cases are found at this early stage. If caught in stage III or higher, the survival rate can be as low as 30.6%. Due to the nature of the disease, each woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer has a different profile and it is impossible to provide a general prognosis.