Each year, over 23,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The ovaries are a fundamental part of a woman's reproductive system. One ovary is located on either side of the uterus, connected by a fallopian tube. Eggs needed for reproduction, as well as the hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are made by the ovaries. Cancer of the ovaries occurs when cells begin to grow in an abnormal and often uncontrolled manner, causing a tumor. Nearly 90 percent of all cases of ovarian cancer occur within the thin layer of tissue that covers the ovaries, and as many as three-quarters of women do not know they have ovarian cancer until it has spread, most often to the abdomen. Even with the advantages of technologically advanced medicine, there are few tests that definitively detect ovarian cancer. However there are screening methods that help doctors test for the disease. Each year, women of all ages should get a pelvic exam.
If a doctor finds an abnormal growth during a pelvic exam, he or she might opt to run additional diagnostic tests. Such tests include PET (positron emission tomography) CT scans, MRI, and even ultrasounds. Women who have had a previous experience with ovarian cancer may benefit from an additional blood test called the CA125, which detects a protein antigen at high levels, found in women who have already had the cancer.
In many cases, surgery is the best option in confirming ovarian cancer by way of a laparotomy in the abdominal area to check for cancer. Doctors can see what type of tumor it is and if it has spread to surrounding areas. Doctors may also determine the present stage of the cancer - Stage I being the earliest stage and Stage IV the latest. Doctors who are able to determine what stage the cancer is in have a better idea of what treatment plans to utilize.
Three types of treatments are typically performed. A gynecologic oncologist can do surgery. During the procedure, ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes are removed, as well lymph glands and a piece of fatty tissue called the omentum to ensure that any possible area the cancer has spread to is removed. Known as a laparotomy, the surgeon is careful to remove all traces of the tumor making sure also to check organs like the liver or spleen. This type of surgery is minimally invasive, and very effective
Chemotherapy is typically offered to patients who have undergone surgery, to kill any remaining cancer cells. For ovarian cancer, the typical chemotherapy includes carboplatin and paclitaxel (six treatments every three or four weeks). There are many other forms of drugs or drug combinations that are used for chemotherapy, depending on the stage a patient is in.
The third form of cancer treatment is through radiation therapy. X-rays with high-energy are used to kill off cancer cells using this method. However, advancements in chemotherapy make that a preferred and most effective option. Radiation therapy is still beneficial for some women, especially for those who have the cancer in a certain area or those who are unable to complete a chemotherapy treatment. Radiation therapy is also ideal for those cancers centralized in the abdomen, as well as those who have a recurring case of ovarian cancer.
Women benefit from annual exams that are vital to catching ovarian cancer before it reaches advanced stages. Prompt discussion with a specialist to get patients set up on a treatment program is ideal for optimal results. Using various methods such as radiation, chemotherapy or even surgery are important methods utilized to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading and attacking other internal organs. As with any cancer or disease, catching it early increases the odds for survival and reducing the risk of complications.
As with any medical treatment, surgery and medications for cancer treatments can add up fast. Depending on the treatment, costs for cancer treatment in the U.S. often range from $40,000 to $50,000. However, the same treatments in India and Brazil can save patients hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per treatment.
Choosing a treatment is often up to the patient, unless a doctor feels a certain procedure needs to be initiated to reduce risks or complications. Find a cancer specialist (oncologist) who deals with the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with, and who will be able to offer procedures desired by the patient. As with any medical professional, doctors, surgeons and specialists should have the proper certification no matter where they are located.
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