Abdominal pain can be referred from ovarian cancer pain. Unfortunately this is a type of cancer that is often overlooked in the early stages.
Cancer of the ovary is a very common cancer in women. About 1 in 70 women get it and 1 in 100 women die of it. It occurs most commonly around or after menopause. There is a small group of women who will get it in the mid 30’s. In these cases it tends to be due to a genetic trait in the family and might then be associated with other cancers such as breast cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Unfortunately in the early stages of the disease ovarian cancer is mostly asymptomatic. However, a pelvic mass can be felt during a physical examination, which will prompt the physician to do more tests. Occasionally an ovarian mass can get twisted spontaneously and present as lower abdominal pain on the right or left. The doctor would then examine carefully, maybe do an abdominal ultrasound to identify the mass and do some blood tests. If the ultrasound showed an ovarian tumor, a CT scan may show more details (arrow points to a tumor in the left ovary of a 60-year old woman, which was found to be a papillary carcinoma). Some of the tumor markers, which the doctor would look for are called beta-human gonadotropin hormone, CA 125 (cancer antigen 125), LDH and alpha-fetoprotein.
Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Before the physician can choose the appropriate treatment, the ovarian cancer has to be staged. The oncologist has a protocol, which is used to find out how far the tumor has spread. This tells the oncologist how aggressive the treatment has to be to get the highest possible cure rate. Depending on the stage, the therapy might only consists of surgical removal of the tumor, called ovariectomy (if localized), or the addition of postoperative therapy such as chemotherapy. For more information see the more detailed ovarian cancer chapter by clicking on this link.
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