Did You Know…

  • Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries.

  • Ovarian tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

  • Women of any age are at risk of ovarian cancer.

  • Increasing age raises risks of developing ovarian cancer. 

  • Early detection improves survival rate.

  • There is no test. A Pap smear only detects cervical cancer.

  • Even in the early stages, women have symptoms of ovarian cancer.

  • While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, some theories exist. One is that genetic errors may occur because of the repeated “wear and tear” of the monthly release of an egg. Another is that increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

  • Bloating

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Additional symptoms may include: fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these symptoms are found equally in women who do not have this disease.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Epithelial tumors

Approximately 90 percent of ovarian cancers develop in the epithelium, the thin layer of tissue that covers the ovaries. This form of ovarian cancer most commonly occurs in postmenopausal women.

Germ Cell Carcinoma tumors

Making up about five percent of ovarian cancer cases, this type begins in the cells that form eggs. It tends to be found most often in women in their early 20s. Many tumors that arise in the germ cells are benign.

Stromal Carcinoma tumors

Ovarian stromal carcinoma accounts for about five percent of ovarian cancer cases. It develops in the connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together and those that produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

The stages of ovarian cancer are determined by how far the cancer has spread. The stage of ovarian cancer at diagnosis is the most important indicator of prognosis.

Stage 1

Cancer is limited to one or both ovaries.

Stage II

The tumor involves one or both ovaries and extends to other pelvic structures.

Stage III

The tumor involves one or both ovaries, and one or both of the following exist: cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and/or cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IV

The growth of cancer involves one or both ovaries and distant metastases to the liver or lungs have occurred as well as finding ovarian cancer cells in the excess fluid accumulated around the lungs.

For more specific information about ovarian cancer, see the American Cancer Society’s Detailed Guide.

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