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Ovarian cancer - symptoms, treatments and therapies

This ovarian cancer overview and associated articles will give you everything you need to know to help you increase your personal odds of beating ovarian cancer - the symptoms, the diagnosis and all the latest options on treatments and therapies - from cancer drugs and chemotherapy to surgery, radiotherapy and complementary therapies; including all the very latest alternative and new therapies and information. We will even cover the causes.
                                                   Chris Woollams

This article has been compiled by Chris Woollams from worldwide research and expert sources*

Read the whole of this article on ovarian cancer or simply click on the sections of most interest.

The CANCERactive Difference: Intelligent Information. Independent Voice. On this web site you will find more information about more treatment options (Complementary and Alternative, not just Orthodox), and on more possible contributory factors to the development and maintenance of your cancer, than on any other UK cancer web site. Some experts believe that approaching your cancer in this total way can increase an individuals chances of survival by as much as 60 per cent.
The very latest research evidence from all over the world in our news section Cancer Watch supports all this.  
We can do this because we are not hide-bound by vested interests, and so we can always put people first. We are not influenced by companies who seek to make financial gains from patients, we have no trustees working for, or sponsored directly or indirectly by such companies, our directors take no remuneration at all. This is our true independence, from which you benefit directly. 
But this comes at a price we rely on you, and people like you to support our work. 47,703 people visited our site in March 2007, viewing 11 pages on average. Every month we add 20 new pages to this site. If you feel an independent voice is essential in cancer, please, please help by making a donation. Every little helps.

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Ovarian cancer - Try to build an integrated treatment programme

Volume 1, Issue 12 coverI´m going to start with the good news. We have a number of ladies who have approached us over the last few years with their ovarian cancers. In every case they were open-minded about using complementary therapies, and in every case despite prognoses of just a few months to live they are alive and well several years later. One lady we know well, exercises daily, watches her diet carefully and has used alternative treatments and even John of God, after the orthodox therapies had failed and she was ´given´ just three months to live by her oncologist. Four years on she is now absolutely clear of her ovarian cancer.

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The statistics

Ovarian cancer affects some 7,000 British women every year

Ovarian cancer affects some 7,000 British women every year and worldwide the figure is 165,000 new cases diagnosed, making it the sixth most common form of cancer. It develops mostly in women over 55, and half of all cases occur in women of 65 plus, although one in ten patients, nowadays, will be under 45. The most prevalent form of ovarian cancer is known as epithelial (a cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary). Much less is known about the rare germ cell (a cancer that begins in egg cells), and stromal ovarian tumours.The ovaries are two grape sized organs, one either side of the uterus. They produce eggs (ova) and the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is possible, though rare, to have the disease confined to just one ovary.
Your chances of contracting ovarian cancer are reassuringly small, but ´it is imperative that women go to see their doctor as soon as they notice any problems´.

Frankly, this ´official´ advice is almost useless to most women, and is developed out of ´impotence´ amongst the medical world: Seventy per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer find that it has already spread beyond the ovaries, which is why the overall five-year survival rate is only 28 per cent.
However a lot of work is taking place to find a decent screening test because if your cancer is diagnosed early and has not spread outside the ovary then official US figures show their women have a 94 per cent chance of surviving 5 years (90 per cent in UK).

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Yale say they have a test which measures the presence of 4 proteins and is 95 per cent accurate

At the moment there is no definitive ´test´ for early diagnosis, although the screening potential is enormous. Dr Veenstra of Frederick in the USA has started using high resolution mass spectrometry to identify if any cancer proteins are present and allow for early detection, while the Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, has shown the presence of Lysophosphatidic Acid (LPA) in higher levels in women developing the disease. A study of over 5000 women at Kings College confirmed that ultrasound could detect many cases of ovarian cancer at an early stage. Yale say they have a test which measures the presence of 4 proteins and is 95 per cent accurate.
Another study at the Royal London and Barts Hospital looked at ultrasound combined with a blood test for protein levels of CA125 (which is raised in women with ovarian cancer).
The problem with screening, however, is that false positives are common and false negatives also occur. Also, despite the ´early diagnosis saves lives´ rhetoric, Medics have also yet to establish beyond any doubt that screening would actually save a life. If you are diagnosed earlier, simple maths and logic makes it more likely that you survive 5 years. That is not the same as beating the disease.
So, early days yet, and funding could well be the ultimate issue as every woman at risk will need to be screened and the cancer is just not high up the Medical World´s priorities. Ovarian cancer doesn´t get as much attention as breast cancer because it affects only 17 per cent as many women. Sad, but that´s the way Government Health Departments think.

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So how could you see it coming??

It was once known as the "silent killer"

With difficulty! Once known as the "silent killer" (because it gives few, if any, warning signs at the early stage when treatment can be successful) ovarian cancer is perhaps more usefully described as the "whispering" disease, because women who listen to their bodies carefully may just pick up possibly life-saving signs. These include:

  •  Pelvic or abdominal discomfort and pain
  •  Cramps
  •  Bloating or swelling
  •  Loss of weight or appetite 
  •  Fatigue 
  •  Breathlessness 
  •  Backache 
  •  Urinary problems 
  •  Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  •  Unusual Vaginal bleeding

Ovarian Cancer Action suggest women look for a constant feeling of being bloated and an increase in abdominal girth, without any evidence of weight gain elsewhere. The first symptom is often urinary urgency.

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Orthodox Therapies

Surgery1 Surgery: Where the cancer has not spread, the most common medical treatment is surgery. A cut is made through the abdominal wall (a laparotomy) and the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the womb are then removed. This is called a total abdominal hysterectomy. Chemotherapy may sometimes be used before surgery to make the tumour more manageable in terms of size. Obviously this ´total´ removal has implications for hormone levels (and hence all manner of side effects such as skintone and hair loss). In pre-menopausal women it means infertility. Surgery is also used to discover the extent of the cancer. Sometimes the doctors do not know whether there is spread or not until they have operated.
In cases where the cancer has spread to the bowel, the surgery may well be accompanied by some removal of the colon. You should ask your surgeon about this risk, although he may not know the level of spread before he operates.

2 Chemotherapy: Most commonly used after surgery, when there is spread or a fear of remaining cancer cells. The most common drugs used are Taxol (paclitaxel), cisplatin and carboplatin. Topotecan, gemcitabine and doxorubicin might also be recommended. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.

A huge international study of 477 women with early ovarian cancer from 84 centres in five countries concluded that Carboplatin is the gold standard chemotherapy for these particular ovarian cancer patients, although in the US they continue with the combination of carboplatin and Taxol.
Dr David Guthrie explains that even if surgery appears to remove all visible evidence of ovarian cancer, some microscopic deposits may persist and cause a recurrence in about a third of patients diagnosed at an early stage.
The key question for oncologists has been whether to wait and see, and give chemo only when a recurrence is found, or to give it routinely after surgery. This recent trial however suggests that survival is increased by 9 per cent if Carboplatin is given within six weeks of surgery.
The recent discovery of mutated genes in ovarian cancer may well lead to a whole new generation of targeted drugs. Radiotherapy

3 Radiotherapy: This is rarely used for ovarian cancer usually after surgery and chemotherapy have been tried, and to manage pain. The beam can hit other tissues and cause damage and side effects which you should ask about. You should also look at our article on how to maximise the effectiveness of your Radiotherapy. So does it all cure ovarian cancer?

Yes, I did use the word ´impotence´ above, and well I might. You should be aware of the following:

1 Charn et al in the British Journal of Cancer vol 95 Issue 10 in 2006 have concluded from Research at Stamford UCLA, that younger women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a greater chance of 5-year survival. Especially women under 30 although then the  researchers admitted there aren´t too many of those!

2 The same researchers found that there was no significant survival difference amongst the 16-40 year old child-bearing group whether they had uterine sparing surgery or those who had standard surgery removing the womb as well. So you might as well spare your uterus.

3 The Journal of Nat. Clin. Inst 2006; 988 carries a phase II trial where women were given the drug Topotecan as well as carboplatin and paclitaxel. The research, conducted in Germany, concluded there was no increased benefit overall survival remained at about 44 months, mean survival was18 months exactly the same as on the normal chemotherapy route and this did not increase with topotecan.

4 The Lancet Oncology (Vol 7 Issue 8; 607) reports research on patients having chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The ´radiotherapy only´ route produces a 4-year survival of 63 per cent. The chemotherapy adds nothing at all. The researchers from the cancer centre in Serbia and Montenegro concluded that there was no benefit in having chemotherapy over just radiotherapy.  

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Putting together a treatment plan

Everything you need to know... cover

Fret not there is so much you can do mostly to help yourself. When my daughter developed her brain tumour and was given just 6 months to live we found out so many things that could help but it took at least 6 months hard work and a pair of science degrees. The aim of this site is to short circuit all this for you and to empower you to pass on all our knowledge, our research findings, the expert studies and the possible causes so that others can benefit immediately. This is also why, when the doctors asked me, I gladly wrote ´Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer´. The book has been a best seller in the UK for three years and you cannot even buy it in a shop only direct from the charity via Natural Selection´s shop - click on the tab at the top of the page!!
Now, let´s first try to understand what is going on, and what factors might be maintaining this cancer, helping it progress in your body.

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What are the possible contributory factors to Ovarian cancer?

  1. Certain risk factors have been ´officially´ identified: For example women who have no children are more likely to develop this cancer, and women who start a family after 30 also have a slightly greater risk. Menstruation patterns are also implicated - more monthly periods may increase the risk; women who began their periods before the age of 12, who had a late menopause and did not breastfeed may also have a higher risk.
    Dr David Guthrie, consultant clinical oncologist at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, stresses that childbearing patterns and ovarian cancer are markedly linked: This cancer is rare in the now scant number of women who have had four or more pregnancies. The unfashionable message seems to be that falling birth rates are bad for ovarian health. However, women who have undergone tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy or had a hysterectomy also seem to have lowered risk, though this is definitely not a reason for choosing surgery!!
  2. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
    So, you may be starting to feel that there is an ´oestrogen´ factor at work, just as there has been increasingly shown for many cancers. Oestradiol a particularly aggressive form of oestrogen is known to fuel the fire of many cancers and it is likely that ovarian is one of them.

    Red meat

    That has implications then for
               a) poor dietary and eating habits having two large meals a day rather than grazing, causes insulin rushes which in turn stimulates oestrogen levels in the body. Eating large quantities of sugary food or refined/processed foods like white bread, refined pasta, refined rice, cakes will also stimulate these hormones.
               b) the use of synthetic hormones. While the jury is still out over the contraceptoive pill and ovarian cancer risk, it is not for HRT. In the Boston Nurses study HRT, increased risk of ovarian cancer by 40 per cent after 7 years and 70 per cent after 11 years. This risk has been confirmed in the US in 2003  and with CRUK´s million women study. Synthetic oestrogen and synthetic progesten seem implicated. (NB Synthetic Progesten has been implicated in the risk of several cancers. Natural Progesterone, which you make yourself, is on the other hand very protective. Please read our article on Natural Progesterone.)
    Despite its vexed reputation for womens health overall, several studies for the birth control pill actually suggest it lowers the risk for ovarian cancer in women who have taken it for five years. After ten years, says Dr David Guthrie, the risk reduction is a marked 50 per cent. (Ed: We worry that this is a bit of a generalisation. Rather, we would suggest that ´protection´ could depend upon the levels of hormones in the pill and indeed the mix of hormones. We are not sure that all forms of contraceptive pills have this sort of benefit, especially since they often use the same synthetic hormones that have proved so risky in HRT)
             c) Increasingly xeno-oestrogens - eg. Phthalates from plasticisers in bottles, BPA from white can linings, toluene in perfumes and nail polishes, and chemicals in pesticides like DDT and Lindane - are known to mimic the action of oestrogen once inside the body. Dr Ana Soto in the USA, one of the World´s leading experts on this subject, has shown that these can have a cumulative effect. They are stored in fatty tissues of the body.
            d) Overweight women are more at risk from cancer in general. Fat stores toxins and hormones you would normally want to excrete, and indicates poor eating habits and a less active lifestyle, all contributory factors.
  3. Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted bacterium, has been implicated in about a third of ovarian cancers according to US research. There is also a little evidence from two US studies that HPV might sometimes play a role. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that has had vaccines developed to prevent several strains causing their damage in cervical cancer.
  4. Family links: A woman with two or more close relatives with ovarian cancer.... carries a greater risk
    In the past few years scientists have learned much more about genetic predisposition to this form of cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which women can inherit from their parents are designed to prevent cancer by making proteins to inhibit abnormal cell growth and repair DNA structures. Mutations on these genes can thus heighten ovarian cancer risk by weakening your natural defences. These genes are, however, present in less than 7 per cent of all women. The lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer for women with either of these two mutations rises to something between 17 and 44 per cent. In the USA women can be tested for genetic problems and  some women with BRCA mutations actually have preventative surgery.
  5. bbb9There is clear research from both the US and the Karolinska institute that dairy increases ovarian risk. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tracked 61,000 women for 13 years. Women who consume a lot of dairy have an increased risk and specifically women who consumed more than the equivalent of a pint of cow´s milk a day have twice the risk.
  6. Theres been some suspicion that the use of talcum powder in the genital area could double the risk of ovarian cancer: Two out of nine research studies suggested a significantly raised risk and another five a slightly increased risk.
  7. There is some research that certain toxins, for example mercury, can heighten risk of this cancer; and there is research on deficiencies oin vitamins B-12, folic acid and other B vitamins being linked to increased risk.

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Cutting out the risk factors and strengthening your body

Now, the important point is that we are not listing the possible contributory factors so that you dwell on things that have happened in the past. We want you to understand what factors might still be present in your life and might be contributing to the maintenance of your cancer. Then you can formulate an action plan. There are, for example, minerals you can take, like selenium, or complex compounds like chlorella that can help you eliminate heavy metals and certain toxins, if you fear they have played a part. Or you can act in a number of important ways to lower the oestrogen (natural 4 pillars and synthetic) in your life oestrogen that might be fuelling your cancer right now. (We even have a short book: ´Oestrogen the Killer in our midst´ that you might be well advised to read as it tells you exactly how to reduce oestrogen in your life). You can find out comprehensive information on these topics and more elsewhere on this site. In particular we recommend you read The 4 Pillars of Cancer    especially Pillar II.

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So, what´s a girl to do?

Click here and read our article "What is Cancer"

The American Cancer Society recommends a diet high in fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cerials with a limited intake of red and processed meats. That´ll cure you -  Oh dear!
Clearly from the above list of possible contributory factors, there could be some at work actively maintaining the problem. And most can be effectively addressed. So, there are some important things you should consider doing for yourself immediately and around your doctor´s expert recommendations.
You can plan your own, all-embracing, cancer treatment programme, with Cancer - Your first 15 Steps  and, as we said above, you can understand far more about all your options by reading all IV Pillars of Cancer. Then:

  1. Oestrogen - The Kill in Our Midst V2 coverTry reducing your ´dangerous´ oestrogen levels. You can find a lot about this if you specifically read Pillar II on the causes of cancer. Being overweight can be corrected and helps (North Carolina University have research that proves it), cutting toxic household and toiletry products, cutting pesticides, taking Indole 3 carbinol, taking melatonin (and being very wary of EMF´s ) and developing regular sleeping habits are all small factors but they can  add up. See our book: ´Oestrogen the Killer in our midst´  for practical ways of cutting your excess oestrogen.

  2. Then there are factors such as regular exercise shown by several studies in the USA to reduce mortality by 50 per cent.
  3. And supplementation using crucial natural vitamins such as vitamin D, and tocotrienol vitamin E.  
  4. Diet is a very important factor. We have a section on diet as a helpful addition to your orthodox package, but some patients choose to go further still, with actual Diet Therapies  like the Gerson Therapy, or a visit to Dr Gonzalez´  New York Clinic. He has clinical trials on his work which involves diet, supplements and pancreatic enzymes.
  5. Giving up dairy, eating sensibly and understanding whether you have an imbalance in your intestinal flora and thus a weakened immune system are issues to consider too.

Recently there has been an enormous flury of research on the role of beneficial bacteria  in our bodies. You really should read our article on the subject, and the links to cancer. Over 4000 research studies and 100 clinical trials have shown that Beneficial Bacteria in the gut: 

Note the role in producing B vitamins and reducing unwanted oestrogen. Beneficial bacteria can also control ´nasty´ bacteria like chlamydia.

There are over 800 strains of bacteria in the gut - a dozen or so seem, so far, to have the greatest impact on our health.

60 or more years ago we would consume daily supplies of a number of strains but we no longer live on farms nor drink raw milk and, instead, we chlorinate our water, fill our chickens with antibiotics, irradiate our food and pasteurise everything that moves. Worse we take drugs, antibiotics and anaesthetics which deplete our stores further.

There is another school of thought that explains that these Beneficial Bacteria at night feed off the yeasts, microbes and non-beneficial bacteria we accidentally consumed during the day. Yeast infection is now endemic. It is estimated that 70 per cent of the population has excess yeasts signs in men include bloating after meals, yellow toe nails and athletes foot. In women the signs are thrush, cystitis and bad breath and/or bloating, plus an inability to lose weight.

Try reading Can Candida cause cancer?  on this web site it will help you take action.

Consider this quote: Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy did not ultimately succumb to cancer, but to an infestation of Candida albicans. That comes from the 1993 Spring edition of the prestigious US medical journal Contemporary Oncology.  Topping up with probiotics (strains of beneficial bacteria shown in clinical trials to deliver a benefit) and following a prebiotic based diet lots of whole foods and whole grains with no sugar, dairy or alcohol and certain yeast killers will help defeat the Candida albicans. It´s all in the article. The recent finding that women who take more than 25 lots of antibiotics in their lifetimes have twice the risk of breast cancer, is just one more factor pointing the finger at yeast infection and a lack of enough beneficial bacteria in the body.

 Scanning a hand  6.  A VEGA check  can tell you about infections such as chlamydia and a good      naturopath can help you fight any such parasites including yeast infections

Cranial osteopathy

7.   Many people who have ovarian cancer internalise a lot of practical problems.   Problems at work, with the family and finances are all stresses that they take on. They will try to please everybody and they try to help everybody. The ´practical´ chakra is located in the lower abdomen and this becomes out of balance. Many patients find ´energy therapies´ like accupuncture, cranial osteopathy and Reiki a great help. Start with our ´kiddies guide´ to therapies. Counselling and hands-on healing  are also significant benefits. Some people have successfully gone to visit John of God. It sounds extreme, but he does actually cure some people or rather, as he says himself, God Cures. He is free but you have to get to Brazil!

 PDT  8. You can even find out about Alternative Therapies (and all the research) on our web site, like Photo Dynamic Therapy: this uses an agent which finds its way to the cancer. Then light of a certain frequency is shone on that agent to produce an oxygen free-radical which kills the cancer cell. For many years this treatment was hampered by the need for the tumour to be ´near the body surface´ in order to deliver the light. Recently there have been huge advances in the agents, lasers and delivery mechanisms. 

Or go to our Home page to find a list of the ten hottest topics we have covered recently we promise one or two will definitely be relevant to you.

Finally why not read about others who have ´beaten´ this disease in Living Proof. You will be able to pick up important insights and see that it can be done!

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Other useful tips..

Treatment for anaemia: Managing and counteracting anaemia can reduce death from anaemia by 50 per cent. Research published by the Cochrane Collaboration showed that epoetins (alfa and beta epoetin) show significant survival benefits. Particularly striking were the results for patients with solid tumours (Breast, lung, colon, ovarian) where risk of death decreased by 51 per cent) In a second study (European Soc. For Medical Oncology- 31st Oct 2005) epotin beta was shown to reduce risk of tumour progression in patients with anaemia 

Apparently 30 per cent of women who have had chemo for breast cancer have long-term fatigue, even after the cancer has ´gone´

Treatment for fatigue: icon has run several pieces on fatigue. A qualified naturopath will be able to suggest dietary changes to boost energy levels. Qualified homeopaths may be able to suggest ways to counter fatigue. Energy therapists ( eg. acupuncture, cranial osteopaths, Reiki Masters) may well be able to help. Italian research showed a lack of acetyl-carnitine   which supplementation could correct. UCLA scientist report that a series of genetic markers become blocked either due to the cancer or due to the chemotherapy treatment. The California team note promising results with Etanercept. Apparently 30 per cent of women who have had chemo for breast cancer have long-term fatigue, even after the cancer has ´gone´. This may well be true for other cancers.

If you are looking for supplements click on the tab at the top of the page and go to the Natural Selection shop where they have selected the best of the best and you can buy with confidence.

On this web site you will find more information about more treatment options (Complementary and Alternative, not just Orthodox), and on more possible contributory factors to the development and maintenance of your cancer, than on any other UK cancer web site. Some experts believe that approaching your cancer in this total way can increase an individuals chances of survival by as much as 60 per cent.
This is all supported by the very latest research evidence from all over the world in our news section Cancer Watch.
We can do this because we are not hide-bound by vested interests, and so we can always put people first. We are not influenced by companies who seek to make financial gains from patients, we have no trustees working for, or sponsored directly or indirectly by such companies, our directors take no remuneration at all. This is our true independence, from which you benefit directly.

But this independence comes at a price: We can only rely on you, and people like you, to support our work. 47,703 people visited our site in March 2007, viewing 11 pages on average. Every month we add 20 new pages to this site. The letters and e-mails of gratitude and praise tell us we really do make a difference.

If you feel an independent voice is essential in cancer, please, please help by making a donation.

                                             Donate button

Every little helps.

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icon, and Health Issues have made every effort to ensure its accuracy, we assume no responsibility for any error, any omission or any consequences of an error or omission. Readers must consult directly with their personal specialists and advisors, and we cannot be held responsible for any action, or inaction, taken by readers as a result of information contained on this web site, or in any of our publications.  Any action taken or refrained from by a reader is taken entirely at the reader´s own instigation and, thus, own risk.Donate button

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