Type of disease: Rare conditions
Ovarian carcinosarcoma is a rare type of cancer impacting the ovaries. Cancer occurs when cells in a tissue or organ change and become abnormal. These cells begin to divide uncontrollably, damaging healthy cells in the process. Ovarian carcinosarcoma begins by affecting the ovaries, but if left untreated will aggressively spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). Carcinosarcoma is a mix of cancer of the epithelial cells (carcinoma), like the lining of organs, and cancer of connective tissues (sarcoma). Exactly how a carcinosarcoma begins to form is not well understood at this time. Ovarian carcinosarcoma accounts for less than 1-2% of all ovarian cancers.
Symptoms of ovarian carcinosarcoma may include bloating, swelling, and pelvic pain. Women who have been through menopause are more commonly affected. Other risk factors include obesity, using certain fertility medications, and hormone therapy. The risk increases the more one ovulates – meaning women who begin menstruation early or begin menopause late will have a higher risk of this type of cancer. Certain changes in genes, like BRCA1 and 2, may also increase your risk.
Diagnosis is made using imaging tests (ultrasounds and CT scans), blood tests, and testing a sample of the tumor (biopsy). Staging of the cancer depends on how far the cancer has spread. For example, Stage 1 means the cancer is only located in the ovaries; whereas Stage 4 means the cancer has spread beyond the abdomen. There is currently no cure for ovarian carcinosarcoma, and because the cancer is so rare, it is difficult to determine the best treatment. However, treatment options are available and early diagnosis is very important. Research is ongoing, so talk to your doctor and specialist(s) about the most current treatment options. Talk to a genetic counselor about possible genetic testing options. Support groups are also a good source of information and can connect you with other women affected by ovarian cancer.