Ovarian Cancer Overview

Ovarian cancer is one of the cancers that are particular to women. As with any cancer, there are many degrees and many treatment options, depending on the severity of the cancer. When someone you love has ovarian cancer, this is, obviously, a very stressful time in all of your lives. By becoming more informed about the cancer you can support a loved one and help them to make educated decisions about their treatment.

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

There are four main stages of ovarian cancer, indicating the extent of the cancer in the body and the possible treatment options that are available. In Stage I, the cancer is only in one or both of the ovaries. It has not spread into the uterus or to other areas of the body. During Stage II, either one or both of the ovaries has the cancer as well as does the uterus and/or the fallopian tubes. Stage II cancer means that the cancer is in the lymph nodes or in other areas outside of the pelvis. During Stage III, the cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread beyond the abdomen or inside the liver.

Your Treatment Options

The treatment that your doctor decides to use will depend on a number of factors. The doctor will evaluate the stage of the disease and will factor in your age, overall health and the cell type. When the cancer is first discovered, you'll have a biopsy done to determine the stage of your cancer. The pathologist will analyze the tissue and determine the stage of your cancer. The gynecologic oncologist will then recommend treatment. As the patient, it is your responsibility to ask many questions and to get the answers that you need to your questions about ovarian cancer. You want to understand exactly what your physical situation is, what your prognosis is and what treatment options you have available to you.

Treatment for Stage I

During this stage, a woman can expect to have an abdominal hysterectomy. This will remove both the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. If the woman is young and still hopes to have children, and the cancer is contained in one ovary, it's often possible to just remove one ovary and a fallopian tube without a hysterectomy. This might be the only treatment if the cancer is low grade. If it's a higher grade, then you might receive chemotherapy as well.

Treatment for Stage II

During this stage, you'll usually receive a hysterectomy and a sampling will be done of your lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread. Treatment will then either involve chemotherapy by itself, or in combination with radiation.

Treatment for Stage III

This stage is usually similar in treatment to Stage II. You'll have surgery, will have chemotherapy either with radiation or without, and may have to have additional surgery to find and remove additional cancer.

Treatment for Stage IV

During this stage, you'll have surgery so that the surgeon can remove as much of the cancer as possible. You'll then receive combined chemotherapy and radiation.

If you or someone you love has ovarian cancer, it's very important to be good to yourself. You need to eat healthy foods, to stay as active as possible, and to sleep as much as you need. Make sure to have plenty of protein in your diet and to take vitamin supplements. You'll want to discuss your cancer treatment side effects with your doctor, and be prepared for the bumpy road ahead. Hopefully, at the end of that road there will be a beautiful recovery and newfound strength.

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