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Understanding Ovarian Cancer -- Diagnosis & Treatment

How Is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

If an ovarian growth is suspected, an ultrasound of the ovaries is done. If any abnormality is detected, further testing will be done. Tests include blood studies, CT scans, barium enema X-rays, colonoscopy, MRI, and chest X-rays to help evaluate the extent of the cancer. Ultimately, the surgical opening of the abdomen (exploratory laparotomy) is necessary to confirm or rule out an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Genetic testing may be useful for women who have a family history of ovarian, uterine (endometrial), or breast cancer. This testing can reveal if you have inherited a gene mutation that is associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer. However, the presence (or lack) of these mutations does not necessarily predict whether you will go on to develop ovarian cancer. And, if you carry a mutation and want to take steps to help prevent ovarian cancer, you may consider removal of the ovaries.

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Patrick Dempsey: Cancer Caregiver

A decade before Grey’s Anatomy was even imagined, Patrick Dempsey -- the actor who catapulted to fame as “Dr. McDreamy” in the hit medical drama -- was already working on his bedside manner. No, he wasn’t preparing for a part. He had traveled back to rural Maine, where he’d been raised, to help his mother, Amanda, take on the fight of her life: a second bout with ovarian cancer. Her cancer, first caught in stage IV in 1996, returned in 1999, and Dempsey and his family were there to give her crucial...

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What Are the Treatments for Ovarian Cancer?

Surgery is the standard treatment for ovarian cancer. Ordinarily, the two ovaries and the other reproductive organs are removed. Young women who have only a small tumor in one ovary and who still want to have children may have just the cancerous ovary removed; the second can be removed later to prevent cancer recurrence.

In most women with advanced disease, some cancer remains after surgery. A woman's prognosis depends on how much cancer remains and how well it responds to follow-up treatment. Most women receive chemotherapy, which can prolong survival and may result in a cure. Radiation therapy may be used to help alleviate symptoms or in certain patients with advanced disease. For certain groups of women targeted drug therapy is an option.  Targeted drugs make changes specifically to the cancer cells without affecting normal, healthy cells.

Even if no cancer is detected after treatment, follow-up exams are essential; women who have had the disease may be at greater risk for breast and colorectal cancer.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on March 09, 2015

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