(Cancer of the Ovaries; Cancer, Ovarian)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Ovarian cancer is when cancer cells start and grow in the ovaries. The ovaries make eggs for reproduction and female hormones.
There are different types of ovarian cancer. They include:
Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
Ovarian cancer is most common in women age 50 or older. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms often only appear in the later stages. They may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical and pelvic exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests will look for tumors and the spreading of cancer. They include:
Diagnosis is confirmed by the biopsy. The exam and test results are also used for staging. Staging outlines how far and fast cancer has spread.
The goal is to remove the cancer. Treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer. A combination of treatments may be used. Options may include:
Radiation therapy may be used to treat areas where the cancer has spread.
The risk of ovarian cancer may be reduced by:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
General information about ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer.html. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ovarian-cancer. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Tew WP. Ovarian cancer in the older woman. J Geriatr Oncol. 2016;7(5):354-61.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/17/2021