The NOCC (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition) defines cancer as “when cells in a part of the body (in this case the ovary) begin to grow out of control”, or at an abnormal rate. “Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to create new abnormal cells forming a tumor.” The tumors can then put pressure on other organs that are near the ovaries, or wherever else they are forming. Cancer cells can travel through the bloodstream or lymph vessels, called metastasis, and condense themselves into tumors throughout any part of a body. Not all tumors are cancerous, some are benign, but all tumors that form around the ovaries are considered to be Ovarian Cancer.

The American Cancer Society defines Ovarian Cancer as a cancer that begins in the ovaries. There are three different types of cells, and three main types of Ovarian tumors, that the ovaries contain. There are “Epithelial cells, which cover the ovary, Germ cells, which are found inside the ovary. These cells develop into the eggs that are released into the fallopian tubes every month during the reproductive years, and Stromal cells, which form the supporting or structural tissue holding the ovary together and which produce most of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.” Epithelial tumors start from the cells that cover the outside of the ovary and is the most common type of tumor. Germ cell tumors start from the cells that produce the eggs. Stromal tumors start from tissue cells that hold the ovary together and produce the female hormones. While most of these tumors are benign, or non-cancerous, and never spread to other parts of the body, malignant, or cancerous, tumors can spread to other parts of the body if not treated.

Statistically speaking, Sarah is the second youngest person known in the entire world to die of Ovarian Cancer at the age of 12. The most common years of life in which someone is diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer is between 55 and 64 years of age. It is more common for Caucasian women to be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer as opposed to African-American women. As of 2009, which was the most recent and complete study, only 1.2% of all cases of Ovarian Cancer were under the age of 20 years old. One in 72 women will develop Ovarian Cancer in their lifetime, and one in 95 will die from it. This means that every year around 14,400 women would die from this disease. The main reason as to why the mortality rate is so high in Ovarian Cancer, as opposed to others, is because the symptoms are what most consider to be daily pains and discomforts, thus making its nickname “the silent disease.” Bloating, stomach pain, difficulty eating, and frequent urination are just some of the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer which causes most cases to be undiagnosed. Women who are fortunate to catch the cancer before it reaches the ovaries have an 85-90% chance of survival within the next 5 years. Those who do not catch their cancer before it reaches their ovaries only have a 20-25% chance of survival within the next 5 years. With the generic symptoms and other factors, Ovarian Cancer is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths among American women.

There are technically four different stages of Ovarian Cancer, but others consider a fifth possibility as well. Stage one of Ovarian Cancer, of the first stage, is when the cancer cells are only present within the ovary itself. This stage is the most treatable, but also the most unrecognized. During the second stage, the cancer cells are in one or both ovaries and has spread to other organs in the pelvis such as the bladder, colon, rectum, or uterus. However, at the stage the cells have not spread to lymph nodes, the lining of the abdomen, or other distant places. During the third stage of Ovarian Cancer, the cancer cells are in one, or both, ovaries. Unfortunately, at this point the cancer has spread to one, or both, of the following: the lining of the abdomen or the lymph nodes. Stage four is the most advanced stage. The cancer has spread from one or both ovaries to distant organs such as the liver or lungs, or there may be cancer cells in the fluid around the lungs. This stage is the most untreatable and quickest acting. The stage that is debatable, the fifth or recurrent stage, is mostly a term used when a patient experiences the cancer coming back after their initial treatment.



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Jefferson University Hospital