Ovarian Cancer

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, which are female reproductive organs that produce eggs and hormones. Ovarian cancer can develop in any of the cells that make up the ovaries and can spread to other parts of the body.


Who's at risk for ovarian cancer?

While anyone can develop ovarian cancer, some factors may increase the risk of developing the condition, including:

  • Age: ovarian cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women over the age of 50, with the risk increasing with age
  • Family history of ovarian cancer or other types of cancer, particularly breast or colon cancer
  • Certain genetic mutations, such as mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Hormonal factors, such as early onset of menstruation, late onset of menopause, and never having given birth
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as talc or asbestos


What causes ovarian cancer?

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some possible risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • Genetic mutations that affect cell growth and division
  • Hormonal factors, such as fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Exposure to environmental toxins, such as asbestos or talc
  • Family history of ovarian or other types of cancer


How does ovarian cancer start?

Ovarian cancer may begin in any of the cells that make up the ovaries, and may develop slowly over time without causing any noticeable symptoms. As the cancer grows, it may cause symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Changes in bowel habits or urinary frequency
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss


What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may vary depending on the stage and location of the cancer, but may include:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Changes in bowel habits or urinary frequency
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge


How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis of ovarian cancer typically involves a combination of imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scan, and a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancerous cells. Blood tests may also be used to help diagnose or rule out other underlying medical conditions.


How can ovarian cancer be treated?

Treatment for ovarian cancer typically involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Some common treatment options for ovarian cancer include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue, which may involve removal of one or both ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • Chemotherapy to destroy cancerous cells and prevent recurrence
  • Targeted therapy, which uses drugs that target specific proteins or genes involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells


What complications may occur with ovarian cancer?

Left untreated, ovarian cancer can lead to a range of complications, including:

  • Spread of cancer to other parts of the body
  • Bowel or bladder obstruction
  • Ascites, or fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • Malnutrition or dehydration


How can I prevent ovarian cancer?

While there are no known prevention strategies for ovarian cancer, there are some steps women can take to reduce their risk of developing the condition, including:

  • Having regular pelvic exams and gynecologic checkups
  • Using oral contraceptives, which have been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer
  • Maintaining a healthy weight


Long-term management of ovarian cancer

After treatment for ovarian cancer, it is important to continue to monitor for any potential recurrence or complications. Some tips for long-term management of ovarian cancer include:

  • Regular follow-up appointments with a healthcare provider to monitor for recurrence or progression
  • Continuing to practice good self-care habits, such as getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress
  • Joining a support group or seeking out counseling services to help cope with the emotional and physical challenges of ovarian cancer


What is recent research saying about ovarian cancer?

Recent research on ovarian cancer has focused on improving early detection and developing new treatment options. Some recent findings include:

  • The potential for blood tests and other biomarkers to help detect ovarian cancer at earlier stages, when it may be more treatable
  • The development of new targeted therapies and immunotherapies that may improve outcomes for patients with ovarian cancer
  • The potential for combining chemotherapy with other treatments, such as radiation therapy or immunotherapy, to improve treatment response.


Where can I go for more information on ovarian cancer?

There are many resources available for individuals with ovarian cancer, including: