Updated: Jul 25
Most cases are discovered at later stages due to its difficult detection, which is why ovarian cancer is often termed ‘The Silent Killer’
Author: Dina Babiker
Cancer has become one of the deadliest diseases of our time, and in Canada alone, it is responsible for the death of 30% of the population . Cancer can take on many forms and spread throughout the body by hijacking the circulatory and lymphatic systems . One of the deadliest forms of gynecological cancers and interest of this article is called ovarian cancer .
The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system that produce the eggs used in reproduction . They also release important hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which are considered primary female hormones . The Canadian Cancer Society estimated that 3100 Canadian women would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020, of which 1950 are estimated to die from the disease . It is also the 5th most prevalent cancer in women and it has 3 main common forms: epithelial, germ and stromal cell ovarian cancer . The most frequent form is the epithelial variant, which consists of cells that cover the ovaries, and it is the most invasive .
Ovarian cancer happens when cells in the ovaries start to divide uncontrollably and can either form a localized tumor or become metastatic and spread throughout the body [6,7]. Unlike other forms of cancer (e.g. breast cancer) that present physical symptoms, ovarian cancer can be very hard to diagnose because it does not necessarily have specific associated symptoms . It is common for women to develop cysts on their ovaries in their lifetimes, however, these cysts may or may not actually develop into ovarian cancer . Thus, oftentimes symptoms are attributed to other benign conditions, which can lead to delay in treatment . Additionally, screening for ovarian cancer is very hard as getting definitive diagnosis requires surgical procedures . Although there are pelvic exams that can be used to ensure healthy reproductive organs, it is often hard to feel ovarian tumors . There are also other tests, like blood tests to test for a tumor marker known as CA125; but unfortunately, there are many other conditions that can cause this marker, this makes it a very non-specific test . These were some of the reasons as to why only 15% of ovarian cancer is detected in an early stage . According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there is a 90%-95% chance of 5 year survival if ovarian cancer is detected early . Unfortunately, most cases are discovered at later stages due to its difficult detection, which is why ovarian cancer is often termed ‘The Silent Killer’ .
Kaz Shuji, Rhea Verma
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