Tumors May Indicate Early-Stage Cancer of the Ovaries
Sometimes when people speak of cancer they talk about “tumors.” But a tumor is not necessarily cancer. If you are concerned about ovarian cancer, perhaps because you or a loved one is a long-time talcum powder user or have other risks, you should understand what a diagnosis of ovarian tumors could mean.
Not all tumors are cancerous, but many cancers, including ovarian cancer, are first found in tumors. Your doctor should fully explain what you need to know about ovarian tumors if such a diagnosis has been made for you. However, it is normal to be shocked by a diagnosis that potentially means “cancer” and not fully hear or understand the explanation that follows.
The product liability attorneys of Stern Law PLLC work with women whose ovarian cancer may have been caused by long-term use of baby or body powders that contain talc. These women may be able to obtain compensation from talcum powder manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson, who never disclosed the cancer link to the public.
Many studies have linked talc, the primary ingredient in talcum powder, with ovarian cancer. These include studies that have found talc in ovarian tumors.
Cancer is an abnormality in a body’s cells that reproduces and spreads, or metastasizes. Because these cells are not structured as they should be, if they are not prevented from replacing healthy cells in vital organs, they may cause grave illness and eventually death.
Cancers are named for their point of origin. Ovarian cancer begins in one or both ovaries and cervical cancer begins in the cervix, for example.
But not all abnormal cell growth is cancerous.
A growth of abnormal cells is known as a “neoplasm.” A tumor is a neoplasm that has gained detectable mass. The term “tumor” means little more than an abnormal lump or growth.
Once a biopsy, or tissue sample, can be taken from a tumor and examined, a tumor can be diagnosed as benign (generally harmless) or malignant (cancerous).
A benign tumor may grow, but its abnormal cells generally do not spread. If a benign tumor is allowed to grow, it will impinge on its host organ or nearby organs and hinder their function and/or cause pain. However, benign tumors generally respond well to treatment, such as surgery or drugs that shrink the mass, and they usually do not return.
A malignant tumor will not only grow and cause pain and/or loss of function in the host organ, but its cells will spread to adjacent tissue and organs, where additional destructive tumors will form. This is cancer. A malignant tumor may also be referred to as a “malignant neoplasm.”
Malignant, or cancerous, tumors may be resistant to treatment and they sometimes return after they have been removed, whether through surgery, drugs (chemotherapy), radiation or a combination thereof.
Usually a doctor or gynecologist discovers ovarian tumors by performing a routine pelvic exam on a patient and feeling a lump. The woman may have complained of certain symptoms, such as:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Feeling full quickly when eating
- Urinary problems, i.e., urgency (sudden need) or frequency.
To get a better idea of what a suspicious lump in a woman’s pelvis might be, a doctor would order imaging tests (ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan, PET scan, etc.) and tests to determine the makeup of the tumor, such as a blood test that can identify cancer antigens or a procedure to obtain a biopsy from the tumor and/or surrounding tissue.
Most ovarian tumors are benign. Ovarian cancer is rare.
The most common type of ovarian tumor is known as “epithelial cell tumors,” because they grow from epithelial cells on the surface of the ovaries. Clinical studies that have identified talc in epithelial ovarian tumors. The indication is that talc from talcum powder used in the genital area travels through the vagina and across the cervix to the ovaries. Talcum powder has also been linked to cervical cancer.
Other ovarian tumors may be:
- Germ cell tumors, which start in the cells that produce eggs.
- Stromal tumors, which originate in the cells that produce female hormones.
If the biopsy results conclude that the tumor is cancerous (malignant) they will also indicate whether cancerous cells have spread beyond the ovary or ovaries.
Treating Ovarian Tumors and Ovarian Cancer
Medical professionals use the term “staging” to identify how widespread cancer occurs in a patient’s body. If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you will likely be told it is a certain “stage” of cancer expressed numerically.
There are multiple systems for staging cancer, but the higher the number used to describe the stage of cancer, the farther the cancer has spread. Ovarian cancer might be described as:
- Stage I: Malignant tumor(s) and/or cancerous cells in the ovary (or ovaries) or fallopian tube(s).
- Stage II: Cancer beyond the ovaries or fallopian tubes but still within the pelvis, affecting the uterus, bladder, sigmoid colon (large intestine) or rectum.
- Stage III: Cancer spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and/or to lymph nodes in the rear of the abdomen.
- Stage IV: Cancer spread to the spleen, liver, lungs or other organs located outside the peritoneal cavity (inner abdomen and upper portion of the pelvis).
At Stage I or II, a surgeon might perform a laparotomy to remove an ovarian tumor or tumors and perhaps additional tissue. This is known as “debulking.”
A noncancerous (benign) ovarian tumor might be removed via laparotomy as well.
During a laparotomy, the surgeon might also remove the cancer-infected ovary or ovaries, fallopian tube(s), uterus, lymph nodes and other adjacent tissue, depending on how far the cancer has spread.
Removal of all or part of the uterus is known as “hysterectomy.” A woman who has had a hysterectomy or their ovaries removed can no longer have babies, but can otherwise lead a normal life.
In addition to surgery, ovarian tumors and/or ovarian cancer may also be treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation, both of which are intended to kill the cancerous cells and shrink and eventually eradicate tumors.
Chemotherapy, or “chemo,” refers to drugs administered through a vein (IV or “intravenously”), by mouth (pills), or directly into the abdomen. Radiation is rarely used, but would involve aiming high-energy X-rays at the cancerous area or implanting a radioactive source near the tumor (also called “brachytherapy”).
Both chemo and radiation therapy have significant side effects, ranging from nausea, fatigue and hair loss, to causing damage to healthy tissue.
An ovarian cancer patient may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation individually or together.
Once cancerous tumors and tissue have been eliminated, the patient is said to be in remission. However, malignant cancers can return at any time.
Stern Law Is Concerned About the Ovarian Cancer and Talc Connection
Attorney Ken Stern has dedicated his legal career to helping victims of other people’s negligence, including those harmed by faulty and dangerous consumer products. Stern Law, PLLC, is currently accepting and pursuing legal claims for women or the families of women whose ovarian cancer may have been caused by long-term use of talcum powder products.
If you or a loved one of yours has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after a history of using talcum powder products, contact us about a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case and legal options available to you. Multiple lawsuits have already been filed and won against talcum powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
Our firm’s primary objective is to provide answers, guidance and support to those dealing with debilitating injuries and illnesses. When clients deserve compensation for their injuries and losses we fight hard on their behalf.