Ovarian Cancer

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a specific type of cancer that only women get. It starts in the ovaries and can spread very quickly to the abdomen and pelvis regions. Ovaries are very small and it can be difficult to diagnosis ovarian cancer when it is still only in the ovaries. If detected early, it is much easier to treat.

Some factors like age (being over 40) and obesity are directly linked to a higher chance of developing this tumor, whereas reproductive history (particularly giving birth before age 26) and using oral contraceptives are connected to a lower risk of developing this form of tumor.

Gynecologic surgery (either tubes or uterus) also reduce the risk of getting this form of cancer, while using fertility drugs such as clomiphene citrate for more than a year can lead to a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

One of the reasons that it is difficult to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages is because the symptoms are minimal. Sometimes there are not symptoms at the beginning. Even in the advanced stages of ovarian cancer, the symptoms are not very specific. In fact, they are often misdiagnosed as a condition that is considerably less concerning, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Some of the signs of ovarian cancer can include unexplained weight loss, bloating and feeling full after eating, changes in bowel movements, frequent urination, and discomfort or pain in the pelvic region.

If you have a history of ovarian cancer, you should talk about this with your doctor.

How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?

Once ovarian cancer has been confirmed, treatment usually involves a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. Surgery usually includes removal of the ovaries, as well as the uterus and fallopian tubes. Any lymph nodes that are close are also removed with fatty abdominal tissues. If the cancer has spread past this, more of the abdomen may be removed as well. Less removal may be required if the cancer is diagnosed early on. Chemotherapy usually follows surgery; however, it may be the first treatment if the ovarian cancer is advanced.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 22, 2017