How does ovarian cancer recur if you don't have ovaries anymore?

Hi Everyone, I'm new to this website and to ovarian cancer after being diagnosed in February this year. I have had a total hysterectomy and my second ovary removed (the first, the cancerous one, was removed already fairly soon after that. I am now on a chemo regime of Carbo/Taxol and had my second treatment today, apparently I will have 4 more. My CT was clear of residual disease and my CA125 was 22 today, after a very small elevation last time of 66, which my consultant says *could* have been because of microscopic disease (the peroteneal washings had "unfit cells" at the time of my hysterectomy) or could have been because of the hysterectomy, which is why they are recommending chemo.

One thing I do not understand is how ovarian cancer can come back if you have no ovaries or female organs anymore. I understand that you can get tumours recur on your liver or colon or perotoneal cavity and sometimes your kidney or lungs - but why is it that doctors say it cannot be treated very well/prognosis is so poor when people who get these tumours (without getting ovarian cancer first) can survive them?

I've asked the consultant several times but my brain seems unable to process this information. He says completion surgery and chemo places me in the best place for this NOT to happen but nothing is certain which I understand and am grateful for, but I guess I just need to understand why/how recurrence of ovarian cancer could happen when you don't have ovaries anymore and why the prognosis is so poor if it does.

If anyone can help me understand, I'd really appreciate it.

Many thanks for your great site and for everyone contributing to it; it's amazingly helpful. Best wishes, Ariel

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17 replies

    wendydee
    wendydee

    Hi Ariel!
    Sorry to hear you have been diagnosed with this but welcome to the site. As for your question, I am not sure about this one so it may be best to check with the experts! Mon - Fri 10.00 to 17.00, you can phone the nurse-led support line on 0845 371 0554.
    However, I'd always assumed (possibly wrongly) that the cells that are left in our body if we get a recurrence are still ovarian cancer cells, even if our ovaries have been removed. They just attach to another site. Dunno! May be totally wrong :-( Sorry I can't be more helpful, but someone will be able to let you know on here, I am sure.
    Good luck and I will wait to hear what the answer to your question .... I'd never thought of that one
    Love Wendy xx

    Gwyn
    Gwyn

    Hi Ariel,
    Having ovarian cancer isn't dependent on you having ovaries, as you can have ovarian cancer even after the ovaries are removed,(although it does cut down the risk) ovarian cancer is recognised by the shape or pattern of the cancer cells, so is very definable other cancers have they're own footprint... ie ...if you have bowel cancer in the liver it will be defined by the pattern of the cancer cells and would be bowel cancer in the liver and not liver cancer....likewise ovarian cancer can be found in other organs and would still be ovarian cancer.
    we often hear people say "oh she has lung cancer now" when what they really mean..."she has ovarian cancer in the lung" (not lung cancer).

    I hope this helps and makes sense, not an easy thing to explain.
    My best wishes x Gwyneth x

    Samsara
    Samsara

    thank you - now this is an explanation I can really get my head round.
    Probably a lot more understandable than many a consultant could manage to say.
    Best wishes to all of you brave ladies out there.

    Gwyn
    Gwyn

    Hi Samsara
    Thank you for the encouragement.. :-) :-) :-)
    Best wishes x Gwyneth x

    ScardyCat40
    ScardyCat40

    They found ovarian cancer cells in my chest cavity in some fluid but my consultant assured me that ovarian cancer is unlikely to spread to the lungs

    Gwyn
    Gwyn

    Hi ScardyCat
    I was just using the lung as an example....Ovarian Cancer does have a pattern of behaviour that would indicate where it is likely to spread.... It is by no means certain though, as when I had a recurrence...It was not in the usual place of recurrence.....Hence my oncologist missing it for over a year.......and then saying......
    "it doesn't usually turn up there" so everyone is different.... My OC was high grade though (fast growing).. and it was...a serous
    adenocarcenoma ... I think you have a different type...???
    I am sorry about your news.
    Best wishes x G x

    ScardyCat40
    ScardyCat40

    I have mostly a low grade serous adencarcinoma but they did find some hi grade cells as well. I had a whole spectrum of cancers lol

    Ariel100
    Ariel100

    Thank you so much to Gwyneth, that makes sense and like Samsara says, is a better explanation than my consultant has been able to say. Thanks also to Wendy for the phone number, appreciated. I had already emailed CancerInfo.org who have been really great in re-explaining many things to me, it's a brilliant service - if anyone else wants to use it, their email address is cancer.info @ cancer. org. uk. Many thanks again, A x

    Gwyn
    Gwyn

    Hi Ariel
    Glad to be of some help... :-) :-) :-)
    Best wishes x G x

    ScardyCat40
    ScardyCat40

    Ariel,
    If the cancer is diagnosed in stages 1 or 2 where there has been very little spread then there is a very good chance that there will be no occurrence of the disease providing all the diseased areas are removed. However most women do not get symptoms until Stages 3 and 4 when the disease has spread to other parts of the abdomen and outside of the abdomen (stage 4). I was diagnosed at Stage 4 but I have a low grade cancer. At the moment I am symptom free but I asked my consultant to write to my GP as they had been complaining they had nothing writing and in the letter its states that I am 'most likely' to need future treatment it was a bit stark seeing it in black and white like that.

    Ariel100
    Ariel100

    Thanks for your thoughts ScardyCat - I bet that was difficult for you re: the letter I'm glad though you are symptom free at the moment and hope it will continue for a long time. Sorry if that sounds inadequate, words often are. Best wishes, Ariel

    ScardyCat40
    ScardyCat40

    That is not inadequate at all its what I wish for all of us and why I'm running/walking the Great Manchester Run in 2 weeks time

    Ariel100
    Ariel100

    Oh definitely :) My husband is a big marathon runner - best of luck to you!

    Hetty
    Hetty

    Hi all. I have ovarian cancer and it has spread to my lung. I have a small tumour which is hopefully being zapped by chemo at the moment.
    Hetty

    Ariel100
    Ariel100

    Thinking of you Hetty xxx

    Gwyn
    Gwyn

    Hi Hetty,
    Hope all goes well, thinking of you..... Best Wishes x G x

    TinaWright
    TinaWright

    Hi ladies,
    My mum had OV as well and it also spread to her stomach and lung.

    One oncologist told me that OV does not spread to the bones like breast cancer - she was not 100% correct, I do know of someone who`s OV did spread to her bones but I do think this is unlikely.

    How to explain about OV re-occurance after the ovaries have been removed.
    So many of family and friends have asked this question. My sister-in-law keeps asking until I explained it like this.
    For those of you who are familiar with the soil and pot plants they will understand that if you remove for example a spider plant from its pot, sieve the soil and then re-use it to plant something else ( such as mother-inlaws tongue), in time a new spider plkant may start to grow. WHY? HOW? Well, once the seed has been sewn so to speak you can never really be 100% sure to remove it all.
    Cancer is a bit like that - why it can in some cases take so many years before it rears its ugly head again I still fathom to understand. Maybe the chemo just keeps it dormant for a period of time.
    This is the only way that makes sence to me so I hope it helps with your worry`s.

    I read most of the bloggs on here, sadly I do not always have the energy to reply to them all, as I also suffer from CFS which I may add masks other diseases (cancer being one of them) Its difficult to know whether I feel like crap because the cancer is back or because of the chronic illness. Then I may have a few good feeling days and stop worrying for a few hours - story of our life girls isn`t it really?

    Love to you all - take great care with gentle hugs to all of you.
    xxxxxxxx

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