It may not be possible to prevent ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer may be related to ovulation and the menstrual cycle. Using the birth control pill, which suppresses ovulation, has been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, but the reason for this is unclear.
Women who have an inherited risk of ovarian cancer may choose to have their ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed (prophylactic surgery). Tubal ligation has also been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer for women with this genetic profile. While prophylactic surgery offers what is thought to be the greatest reduction in risk, it may not completely eliminate the risk. Moreover, the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) may develop cancer similar to ovarian cancer even if the ovaries are removed.
Treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. During a laparotomy (open incision of the abdomen), the surgeon may remove the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, some of the fatty tissue covering the abdomen (omentum), and lymph nodes. If the cancer has spread outside of the ovaries, the surgeon may remove these tumours with goal of removing all or most of the tumour that they can see.
With early-stage ovarian cancer, women who still want to have children may choose to have only one fallopian tube and ovary removed. But, there may still be a chance that cancer could appear in the other ovary, the fallopian tube, or the uterus.
Chemotherapy with anticancer medications usually involves taking a combination of medications. Chemotherapy may be given intravenously (injected into the vein) or directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal chemotherapy). Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is currently given only to women who have advanced-stage disease and have had most of their tumor removed during surgery.
Certain individuals may also be candidates for radiation therapy. Biotherapy and immunotherapy treatments are currently under study. Women with ovarian cancer should also talk to their doctor about available clinical trials.
A complete response to the treatment (remission) occurs when no detectable cancer is found either through examination by an oncologist or through tests such as an ultrasound or CT.
Despite achieving remission with treatment, ovarian cancer can recur months to years later in as many as 70% of women. The risk of recurrence is highest in women with advanced-stage disease at diagnosis. To monitor for recurrent disease, doctors usually use a combination of physical examinations, CT scans, or blood tests (e.g., CA-125).
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