Ovarian cancer

Cancer, Ovarian

Overview

Type of disease: Rare conditions

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in a women’s ovaries. Women have two ovaries that produce eggs as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose because early-stages of ovarian cancer rarely cause any symptoms and advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause few and nonspecific symptoms. The symptoms of ovarian cancer may include abdominal bloating, quickly feeling full when eating, weight loss, cramping in the lower stomach, changes in bowel habits, and a frequent need to urinate.

The cause of ovarian cancer is unclear. In general, cancer is caused by genetic mutations that turn normal cells into abnormal cancer cells that quickly multiply, forming a mass (tumor). The type of cell where the cancer begins determines the type of ovarian cancer. These types included epithelial tumor, stromal tumor, and germ cell tumor. Certain factors may increase your risk of ovarian cancer. These include age (most common in women ages 50 to 60), estrogen hormone replacement therapy, age when menstruation starts and ends (starting before age 12 or undergoing menopause after age 52), never being pregnant, fertility treatment, smoking, and polycystic ovary syndrome. About 10% to 20% of all ovarian cancer is caused by an inherited change (mutation) in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

A doctor will use a combination of methods to diagnose ovarian cancer, including a pelvic exam, imaging (ultrasound or CT scans) to look at the ovaries, blood tests, and surgery to remove a tissue sample and abdominal fluid to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. It is important to talk to your doctor to learn about the most up-to-date treatment options. If more than one person in your family has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it may be helpful to talk with a genetic counselor about hereditary cancer and genetic testing options.

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