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Diagnosis & Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

Diagnosis & Treatment of Ovarian Cancer
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  • 0:01 Ovarian Cancer
  • 0:24 Diagnosis
  • 2:59 Treatment
  • 5:37 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Heather Adewale

Heather has taught reproductive biology and has researched neuro, repro and endocrinology. She has a PhD in Zoology/Biology.

Unlike many cancers, ovarian cancer is usually not diagnosed until it is in the later stages. Find out why, along with how ovarian cancer can be treated, in this lesson on the diagnoses and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer

Just like males can get testicular or prostate cancer, all cancers of the male reproductive tract, females can also get female-specific cancers. One of the more dangerous, yet less well-known, of these is ovarian cancer. This female reproductive cancer is found in the ovarian tissues of the female reproductive tract.

Diagnosis

Did you know that ovarian cancer is one of the hardest cancers to diagnose? Why might that be? Not its location; that is easy enough to get to. It's actually because most patients present with little or no symptoms of this cancer until it has spread outside the ovaries! By that time, the cancer has progressed into the later stages of the disease and is more dangerous.

The most common symptoms are things like abdominal pain, excess bleeding during menstruation, excess gas, and bloating. All this sounds like what other common female syndrome? Hmm... sounds a lot like PMS to me! And maybe a little bit of indigestion. So you can see why many of the symptoms of ovarian tumors and cancer are overlooked.

And then there's also the small complication that many tumors found on the ovaries are not cancerous, and those that are don't necessarily look any different from those that aren't! Like those poisonous insects that look just like the non-poisonous ones, they appear similar, but only one is deadly.

So, what's the best way to diagnose ovarian cancer? Well, like other cancers we can try and detect the presence of ovarian cancer in the blood, using something called a serum marker test. This test looks for the presence of the CA-125 protein in the blood. CA-125 is a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells. It's almost like the cancer cells are sending out a calling card that notifies the rest of the body of their presence.

However, serum marker tests for ovarian cancer aren't as reliable as they are for other types of cancer, because often, the CA-125 levels are too low and can be difficult to detect.

Therefore, the most reliable way to diagnose ovarian cancer is through a transvaginal ultrasound, which can be used to view and detect abnormal anatomy or lumps on the ovaries. It's kind of like a camera used to view the inside of your body. This, combined with a biopsy, or the removal of a piece of ovarian tissue to test for cancer, is the best way to confirm the presence of ovarian cancer.

Treatment

Okay, so now that we have figured out how to confirm ovarian cancer is present, what next? How do you treat it? Or, can it be treated? Fortunately, the answer to that second question is 'yes!' Ovarian cancer can be treated, and it is treated in a very similar way to other cancers. Let's take a brief look at the four main ways doctors treat ovarian cancer today.

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