Ovaries are the female reproductive glands situated in the lower part of the abdomen in both sides of the womb. They produce the ova and are the source of very important hormones (Estrogen and progesterone) in the body.
Ovarian cancer is not a single entity. It represents several tumors originating from different parts of Ovary. The most common cancer of ovary (almost 90%), i.e. the epithelial ovarian cancer arises from the covering of the organ. Most of these patients present at an advanced stage and after menopause.
Most of the patients of epithelial ovarian cancers experience no signs or symptoms of disease at an early stage. Abdominal discomfort, bloating and early satiety are the most common symptoms experienced by them at an advanced stage. Some patients experience lower abdominal lump and abdominal pain. Ovarian malignancy patients also develop fluid collection within the abdominal cavity resulting in abdominal distension.
Occasionally these tumors are diagnosed during routine health check-up. Epithelial ovarian cancers can be hereditary (approximately 5-10%) and run in family due to genetic mutations. Women with family members affected by ovarian cancer, cancer of both breasts or breast cancer at an early age, both ovarian and breast cancer or male breast cancer can be suspected to have such hereditary disease and are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer.
In contrast to the epithelial cancers, other tumors like germ cell cancers may cause severe abdominal pain at an early stage and can present with lower abdominal or pelvic lump.
Patients experiencing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms require immediate medical attention. Patients with a family history of breast and ovarian malignancy can consult the physician for necessary tests to detect early malignancy. Diagnosis and treatment at an early stage is associated with a better outcome.