Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common malignancy in women in developed countries and accounts for approximately 4% of all female malignancies. The highest rates are in North America and Scandinavia, and the lowest in Asia.
What is ovarian cancer?
This type of cancer is the growth of cells that form in the ovaries. The cells multiply quickly and can invade and destroy healthy body tissue. When ovarian cancer first develops, it might not cause any noticeable symptoms. Symptoms associated with it may be:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Back pain
- Frequent need to urinate
Although the cause of ovarian cancer is not 100% clear, doctors indicate that the cancer begins when cells in or near the ovaries develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. There are three types of this cancer: epithelial, stromal, and germ cell.
- Epithelial ovarian cancer: The most common type which includes several subtypes, including serous carcinoma and mucinous carcinoma.
- Stromal tumors: Rare tumors that are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage than other ovarian cancers.
- Germ cell tumors: These rare cancers are more usual in younger ages.
There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer such as increased age, inherited gene changes, family history, endometriosis, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, and age of menstruation.
Ovarian cancer and infertility
Ovarian cancer and its treatment is known to reduce the possibilities of conceiving naturally, but there are available fertility treatments that can help you conceive.
Cancer treatments that affect fertility and how:
- Hysterectomy meaning removal of the uterus or oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) both cause fertility loss. But if you have a trachelectomy (removal of just the lower part of the cervix for cervical cancer), you may still be able to get pregnant. If your ovarian cancer is diagnosed in early stages or if you have a germ cell tumor, you may need to have only one ovary removed and preserve your uterus, and in that way you may still be able to get pregnant. Surgery to remove tumors near your reproductive organs may cause scarring that blocks eggs from moving into your ovaries for fertilization.
- Chemotherapy. There are chemotherapy drugs that cause ovaries to stop making estrogen or releasing eggs, and this condition is called primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). It may be temporary or permanent. Chemo drugs may also reduce the number of healthy eggs in the ovaries and affect fertility.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation for cancer in the pelvic area or lower belly can destroy eggs stored in the ovaries. Radiation can also scar and damage the uterus so you may not be able to carry a pregnancy to term, causing miscarriage.
- Hormone therapy. Drugs that block hormones involved in some cancers may cause infertility, but in some women, fertility returns after treatment. Some hormone therapies cause permanent fertility loss. One hormone therapy, tamoxifen, can cause birth defects, so you shouldn’t take it and try to conceive.
- Targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy. The targeted drug bevacizumab may damage ovaries. Drugs like lenalidomide and thalidomide, or immunotherapy drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, may cause severe birth defects if you conceive during treatment.
Treatments that can restore fertility or protect ovaries during cancer treatment
- Egg freezing, the process where eggs are removed from your ovaries, frozen, and preserved for fertilization later. The latest Greek government act decided that women can freeze their eggs without the husband’s consent and divorced women can use their freezing eggs again without the partner’s consent. Also, any woman can freeze her eggs not only for medical reasons, but for social ones too.
- Embryo freezing or banking, where eggs are removed and fertilized in a lab with sperm to produce embryos that are frozen.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) therapy can block your body from making estrogen and progesterone, which may protect your ovaries during cancer treatment.
- IVF, the most common fertility treatment. After you have frozen your eggs you can perform IVF with the preserved eggs. Greece has raised the IVF age limit from 52 to 54 years old, which gives more women the chance of conceiving.
- Surrogacy, where in Greece only altruistic surrogacy arrangements are permitted, meaning the surrogate mother will carry the child without any additional base compensation. This specific surrogacy procedure was permitted for Greek citizens since 2002, though the law extended in July 2014, permitting foreign citizens’ rights to become parents through a surrogate mother Greece, too. What’s more, Greece is one of the countries that offer legal protection to intended parents.
Consult your doctor and explore your options, conceiving is not always an unreachable dream. And when you decide on your fertility treatment, trust MEDIPASS to offer you the ideal fertility journey you deserve. With a wide range of top-notch doctors and clinics your dream has many possibilities to be fulfilled.