In recent times, ovarian cancer, otherwise referred to as cancer of the ovary has made a popular entry into the Nigeria's medico-media lexicon. This is especially so after the death of Mrs. Mariam Babaginda, the beautiful wife of the former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babaginda, and founder of the Better Life Program, who died a few weeks back in the US while receiving treatment for ovarian cancer. She was said to have battled this disease for about ten years before she finally lost the battle to this not-so-uncommon cancer at the age 60.
In general, ovarian cancer of the ovary is commoner in woman over the age of 50 (the late Marain's age bracket) and it is no respecter of wealth, race or creed. It is as common among the poor as it is with the rich.
WHAT ARE OVARIES?
Under normal circumstances, women have two ovaries, one on either side of the womb (uterus) in the lower portion of the abdomen. Ovaries are small in size, round and shaped like a walnut. The ovaries function as the egg making organs in woman. In fertile woman, each month an egg (ovum) is released from one of the ovaries. After it is release from the ovary, the egg passes down the fallopian tube into the uterus where it may get fertilized by a sperm leading to a pregnancy. If it is not fertilized, it is shed off with the menses.
Another function of the ovaries is to make hormones especially the main female hormones oestrogen and progesterone- which have various effects on other parts of the body and are major regulators of the menstrual cycle.
Cancer is a disease of the cells in the body. Our body is made up from billions of tiny cells. Since, there are many different types of cell in the body; it is okay to note that there are many different types of cancer which arise from different types of cell. However, what all type of cancer have in common is that the cancer cells are abnormal often referred to as 'crazy' cell that multiply 'out of control' thus becoming thicker and bigger (often refer to as a 'lump' or 'growth') than the surrounding normal cells.
When these lumps or 'growths' are the types that invade and affect the functions of nearby normal tissue, they are referred to as malignant tumors or cancerous growths. Malignant tumors may also spread to other parts of the body. This happens if some cells break off from the initial/first lump often called 'primary tumour' and are carried in the bloodstream or other body fluids to other parts of the body. These small groups of cells may then multiply to form 'secondary' tumor (metastases) in their new deposited locations in the body. These secondary tumors may then growth, invade and damage nearby tissues and can spread again to other body parts.
Different cancers have different outlook, some are more serious than others and some are more easily treated than others especially if diagnosed at an early stage.
The point to note here is that cancer is not uniformly one condition. In each case it is important to know exactly which type cell has given rise to a cancer, how large it has become and whether it has spread, so as to determine the prognosis or outlook for the condition.