Q & A

Frequently asked questions

Q . I had my ovaries removed, could I still get ovarian cancer?

A .  Technically, no; women who have their ovaries removed cannot get ovarian cancer.  There is a rare type of cancer called primary peritoneal carcinoma - a close relative to ovarian cancer that can develop without the ovaries.  The treatment for primary peritoneal cancer is the same as that for ovarian cancer.

Q . What is endometriosis? (Pronouced end-oh-me-tree-oh-sis) - Can it cause ovarian cancer?

A . Endometriosis is a chronic and often progressive disease that develops when endometrial tissue, which normally lines the inner surface of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. These implants occur most frequently in the pelvic region and on the reproductive organs but can appear in other areas, such as the bladder.

Endometriosis is when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found in places outside the uterus where it shouldn't be.  Endometriosis may look red and inflamed and can form nodules and cysts.  These are mostly found on the lining of the pelvis (peritoneum), Pouch of Douglas (or the cul de sac), ovaries, bowel, ligaments and bladder. 

The extent of endometriosis is described by a staging system:

  • Stage I is minimal,
  • Stage II is mild,
  • Stage III is moderate and
  • Stage IV is severe endometriosis. 

The extent of endometriosis is not related to your symptoms or pain.

In spite of the high prevalence of endometriosis in women the world over, researchers have been unable to determine its cause.

Endometriosis can cause pain and scarring, and it is believed that 20 percent to 40 percent of women diagnosed with this chronic disease are infertile (National Cancer Institute).

Researchers have hypothesised that the most likely link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer is the association between endometriosis and infertility.

It is well established that ovarian cancer risk is reduced with each pregnancy. Consequently, women who do not bear children, whether by choice or due to infertility issues, are believed to be at greater risk for ovarian cancer.

Source: The Gynecologic Sourcebook, Third Edition

Q . Is there an association between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and ovarian cancer?

A . The latest interpretation of data resulting from the Women’s Health Initiative study suggests that postmenopausal women who take combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) continuously may face a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

While researchers say the findings shouldn’t affect most women’s decisions to take HRT to relieve moderate to severe menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, the possibility of an increased ovarian cancer risk support recently revised guidelines that call for the conservative use of hormone therapy.

Source: Anderson, G. The Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol 290:1739-1748)

Q . Is ovarian cancer still possible after a hysterectomy?

A . Yes, you still have a risk of ovarian cancer or a type of cancer that acts just like it (primary peritoneal cancer) if you've had a hysterectomy.

Your risk depends on the type of hysterectomy you had:

  • Partial hysterectomy or total hysterectomy. A partial hysterectomy removes your uterus, and a total hysterectomy removes your uterus and your cervix. Both procedures leave your ovaries intact, so you can still develop ovarian cancer.
  • Total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy. This procedure removes your cervix and uterus as well as both ovaries and fallopian tubes. This makes ovarian cancer less likely to occur, but it does not remove all risk.

 

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