An ovarian tumor is just like any other tumor that grows in the body; only it is localized to the ovary. They appear in two forms: benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). If the tumor is malignant it is referred to as ovarian cancer. This type of cancer is often symptomless until it spread outside of the pelvis in the late stages of disease. When caught late, it can be very hard to treat and there is an increased risk of death due to the cancer. If caught in the early stages, the cancer is very treatable and there is a high cure rate. Read on to learn more about ovarian tumors and how they are treated.
Types and Causes of Ovarian Tumor
Ovarian tumors are not always cancerous. It depends on the type of tumor and where it originated. They are categorized by the site where they started as follows:
- Stromal Ovarian Tumor – These tumors begin in the part of the ovary that manufactures female reproductive hormones. This type of ovarian tumor is actually very rare and considered a low-grade cancer.
- Germ Cell Tumor – Germ cell tumors come from the actual cells that turn into eggs. The majority of these are benign, but some can turn into cancer. These are most common in younger women and teens, but if treated early they are curable and fertility preserved.
- Epithelial Cell Tumor – This is the most common ovarian tumor and begins on the outside of the ovary. Most of these tumors are benign, but the cancerous type is usually not found until late stages of ovarian cancer.
The actual cause of ovarian tumors is not known, but there are some factors that increase your risk of getting them including:
- Fertility drugs
- Being overweight
- Taking hormone supplements
- Family history of ovarian tumors or ovarian cancer
- No history of childbirth
- No history of breastfeeding
Symptoms of Ovarian Tumor
Benign Ovarian Tumor
If you have an ovarian tumor, you may not have any symptoms at all. When your see your doctor, they may find it during a pelvic exam. The symptoms below warrant a visit to your doctor to be checked. This is because ovarian tumors may need further investigation to check for cancer. Call your doctor if you have the following:
- Abdominal Pain
- Bloating not related to your period
- Trouble urinating or urinary frequency
- Low back pain
- Pain with sex
- Bad cramps with your periods
- Heavy bleeding
- You feel full quickly after eating or no appetite
Malignant Ovarian Tumor
If you have a cancerous or malignant ovarian tumor, symptoms may not show up until the very late stages. This is most likely because the tumor has already grown to a very large size. Call your doctor for an urgent appointment if you have any of the following:
- Severe pain in the pelvic region or your low abdomen
- Constant bloating all the time and your abdomen looks larger
- Trouble eating
- Diarrhea or new onset constipation
- Weight loss that you can’t explain
Treatments of Ovarian Tumor
Treatments of Benign Ovarian Tumor
If you have a benign ovarian tumor the doctor can do a few things to help make you comfortable and possibly shrink its size down. Sometimes just wait and see if the tumor goes away without doing anything. You may have to have an ultrasound every few months to make sure it is not growing. Other treatments include:
- Prescribe birth control – Even if you are not sexually active, the doctor may recommend you go on birth control to calm down the ovaries. Birth control can help shrink tumors and cysts by slowing the body’s production of hormones.
- Surgical intervention – If the tumor gets larger or is very painful the doctor can do surgery to remove it.
Treatments of Malignant Ovarian Tumor
If the tumor is cancerous, there are some options your doctor will discuss with you. You may need to have one of them or all of them depending on the stage of cancer. These options include:
- Surgery to remove the ovary – In the early stages, the ovary and fallopian tube are removed. This may be the only treatment needed. In later stages, they may have to take the ovary, lymph nodes in the area and a full hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
- Chemotherapy treatments – This treatment uses medication that helps cancer cells die-off or stop growing. There are side-effects, but there are other medications to help reduce feeling sick while going through chemo.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation is sent into the tumor to help stop the growth or cause the cancer cells to die-off. It is not common for this treatment to be used with ovarian cancer, but may be used after surgical removal of the ovary.
Prognosis with Malignant Ovarian Tumor
If ovarian tumors are caught early, the survival rate is very good. The issue with ovarian cancer is that there are few symptoms until the cancer has progressed and possibly spread through the body. If this happens, the prognosis can be poor.
Preventions of Malignant Ovarian Tumor
Here are some tips that can help your ovaries heal after ovulation and protect the ovaries from getting tumor:
- Breastfeed after having a baby to suppress ovulation.
- Use birth control if you are at risk of cancer.
- Eat a healthy diet and stay in a healthy weight range.
- Ask your doctor for the CA125 blood test, a screening for ovarian cancer.