Key Points about Ovarian Cancer 

  • Ovarian cancer most commonly affects those between the ages of 50 and 60.
  • Women who started their menstrual cycle at a young age and/or started going through menopause at a later age are at an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer.
  • Treatment for ovarian cancer typically involves some type of surgery, and perhaps chemotherapy.

Overview

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects the ovaries. The ovaries are the part of the female reproductive system that produce eggs and the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer only affects females.

Ovarian cancer causes 

This type of cancer occurs when cells of an ovary receive a mutation in their DNA, which causes them to turn into abnormal cells and multiply rapidly. 

Ovarian cancer risk factors

Factors that can increase your risk for developing ovarian cancer include:

  • Being a female between the ages of 50 and 60
  • Having a family history of ovarian cancer
  • Having specific gene mutations, including breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1), breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) and those associated with Lynch syndrome
  • Having started menopause at a later age
  • Having started your menstrual cycle at an early age
  • Having undergone estrogen hormone replacement therapy, particularly over a long period of time or in high doses

Ovarian cancer symptoms

In its early stages, ovarian cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. In its later stages, the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Bloating or swelling of the abdomen
  • Changes to bowel habits, including constipation
  • Feeling full very quickly when eating
  • Frequent feeling of needing to urinate
  • Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Unintentional weight loss

Ovarian cancer diagnosis

Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following tests to diagnose ovarian cancer:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam and pelvis exam to check for signs of ovarian cancer.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may order an imaging test – such as computerized tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound of your abdomen and pelvis – to check for abnormalities.
  • Blood tests. Your specialist may order blood tests, which can check for organ function health to help assess your overall health.

Ovarian cancer treatment

Treatment for ovarian cancer may include one or more of the following options:

  • Surgery. Depending on the extent of your ovarian cancer, your specialist may recommend a surgical procedure to remove one ovary, to remove both ovaries or to remove both ovaries and your uterus.
  • Chemotherapy. This treatment involves using medications – either oral (by mouth) or intravenous (by vein) – to destroy cancer cells.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.