What is Ovarian Cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. This abnormal growth is caused by mutations in the cells’ DNA that lead to the creation of a mass (tumor). Cancer is named for the part of the body where it originates, even if it later spreads to other organs. Ovarian cancer is believed to originate in a woman’s ovaries, but new research is finding that it may also begin in the fallopian tubes or peritoneum (tissue that lines abdominal organs).

After diagnosis, the cancer is given a stage based on the spread of the cancer throughout the woman’s body. Ovarian cancer stages range from stage I (1) through IV (4). As a rule, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV, means cancer has spread more. Although each person’s cancer experience is unique, cancers with similar stages tend to have a similar outlook and are often treated in much the same way.

symptoms of ovarian cancer

  • Bloating that is persistent
  • Eating less or feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal and / or pelvic pain
  • Trouble with your bladder (urgency or frequency)

Symptoms are often subtle, persistent, and usually increase over time.

If symptoms persist for two or more weeks, see your doctor: preferably a gynecologist.

Risk Factors

Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will get ovarian cancer.

You should always listen to your body and be honest with your provider about your health and personal/family history.

• Immediate family members (mother, sister, paternal or maternal aunt or grandmother) with ovarian cancer

• Ovarian cancer is more common in white women than African-American women

• Personal history of breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer

• Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish ancestry

• Never giving birth or having children after age 35

• Long term use of hormone replacement therapy

• Endometriosis

• Obesity


• There is currently no early detection test for ovarian cancer. The Pap smear test DOES NOT screen for ovarian cancer. The only cancer the Pap screens for is cervical cancer.

• Having an annual gynecologic exam is important for all women!

• Be alert to changes in your body and listen; this disease whispers.

• Women with symptoms are often given a pelvic/rectal exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and CA 125 tumor marker blood test.



About 19,710 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer this year

About 13,270 women will die from ovarian cancer this year

A woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer in her lifetime is about 1 in 78

About 50% of women diagnosed are over 63 years old

Ovarian cancer is the fifth deadliest cancer amongst women, and the most deadly of all gynecological cancers


Some ovarian cancers are caused by gene mutations such as those commonly known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Other mutations, like those associated with Lynch syndrome, may play a role in diagnosis.

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