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What Happens When Ovarian Cancer Spreads?
Ovarian cancer is a type of malignancy that originates in the cells of one or both ovaries. There are three types of cells in the ovaries that cancer may affect. These include the epithelial cells that cover the ovaries, the germ cells that produce eggs and the stromal cells that produce female hormones. As with other types of cancer, ovarian cancer can be categorized in one of four stages based on how advanced it is when diagnosed.
In its early stages, including stage 1 and stage 2, ovarian cancer has not spread beyond the ovaries. By stage 3, it may have spread to nearby areas, including the lymph nodes. Stage 4, which is the most advanced stage, indicates that the cancer has spread from the ovaries to distant areas of the body. These areas may include the lungs, liver, brain, skin or distant lymph nodes. When this malignancy spreads to other areas, it is known as metastatic ovarian cancer.
Symptoms of metastatic ovarian cancer
In its early stages, ovarian cancer may not produce any noticeable symptoms or may only cause mild bloating and stomach discomfort. By the time it has metastasized, symptoms are more likely to occur and may be more severe. Some common symptoms of metastatic ovarian cancer include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Frequent urination or feeling an urgent need to urinate
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Unexpected weight loss
Treatment for metastatic ovarian cancer
If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, it is important to note that there are many other, more common conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Therefore, you will need to consult with a physician in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. If ovarian cancer is confirmed as the cause of your symptoms, your physician will likely recommend you see a specialist who is experienced in treating ovarian cancer.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take a collaborative approach to ovarian cancer treatment, and the multispecialty team in our gynecological clinic ensures each patient receives an individualized treatment plan based on her unique circumstances. Our team considers the size and location of the tumor, whether or not it has spread and the patient’s overall health, among many other factors. Your individual treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these options.