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What is an Ovarian Adenocarcinoma?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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Ovarian adenocarcinoma is a rare type of cancer that originates in the reproductive glands of females. These glands are called ovaries, and their primary function is to produce eggs. Ovarian adenocarcinoma forms on the surface of the ovary, or in some instances, inside the egg itself. Though it is believed to account for only 4 percent of all cancers in women, it is the number one cause of death involving cancers of the reproductive system. Due to the fact that there are no obvious symptoms, this disease is often not diagnosed until very late stages.

Though the exact cause of ovarian adenocarcinoma has yet to be determined, there are some factors that point to higher risk. Family history is one factor, with studies showing that women from families with a history of breast or ovarian cancer may be at a 20 percent higher risk for the disease. There also appears to be a link between ovarian adenocarcinoma and child bearing. Women who are infertile, as well as women who are fertile, but have never had a child, are also at higher risk. Hormonal birth control may also be a contributing factor.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer do not usually show up until advanced stages, and even then, they are often associated with other, less serious conditions. The symptoms could include tiredness, nausea, or constipation. Swollen stomach and difficulty breathing may also be present.

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Scientists have determined that mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 can often lead to ovarian cancer. Females with this gene mutation have as much as a 60-percent increased risk factor. This mutation is often inherited, so women with a family history of ovarian adenocarcinoma are often advised to undergo genetic testing to find out if this mutation is present. If the mutation is found, doctors often suggest the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes, a procedure that virtually eliminates the risk.

Treatment for ovarian adenocarcinoma can vary, and doctors generally take a number of factors into consideration, including the age of the patient and the stage of the disease. Surgery to remove the affected organs is one of the more frequent treatments. In younger women, or women who still want to have children, doctors may first attempt to just remove the tumors and leave the reproductive system intact. This requires extensive monitoring, as the cancer often recurs. Surgery is often followed by chemotherapy, which employs the use of chemicals to kill cancer cells.

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