Ovarian cancer in women - illustration. (Source: Shutterstock)
Definition of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is a malignant disease of an ovary or both ovaries.
Currently around 8,000 women per year develop ovarian cancer. A familial predisposition is detected in 10% of cases. It is probable that hormonal causes may also play a role, and studies have shown that the long-term use of the "pill" reduces the risk of the disease significantly (around 60 percent).
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
Most ovarian tumours do not cause discomfort until very late in the development of the condition, as they can reach a considerable size before they affect other organs such as the urinary tract and the intestines.
The symptoms are usually nonspecific: vague abdominal pain, foreign body sensation and any increase in body size caused by the tumour, despite simultaneous strong weight loss. Also bladder complaints and nonspecific symptoms such as bloating, fullness, or pain during bowel movement.
Diagnosis of ovarian cancer
The tumour can be felt during a gynaecological examination and will show up by ultrasound through the vagina. Tumour markers, X-ray with contrast agent enema, and computed tomography (CT) will clarify the diagnosis.
Since ovarian cancers occur more often as secondary tumours of other primary tumours such as breast or stomach, examinations are mostly undertaken in relation to these secondary tumours.