Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Intercontinental Care

Ovarian Cancer Overview

Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the ovaries or fallopian tubes grow and multiply out of control.

Ovaries are part of the female reproductive system. These two round, walnut-sized organs make eggs during your reproductive years.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Ovarian cancer can develop and spread throughout the abdominal organs before it causes any symptoms. This can make early detection difficult. Ovarian cancer symptoms may include:

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating.
  • Changes in your eating habits, getting full early and losing your appetite.
  • Vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding, especially if the bleeding occurs outside of your typical menstrual cycle or after you’ve gone through menopause.
  • Bowel changes, such as diarrhea or constipation.
  • An increase in the size of your abdomen.
  • Peeing more often (frequent urination).

Ovarian Cancer Causes

The exact cause of ovarian cancer isn’t yet known. But some people have a slightly higher risk of developing the condition. Ovarian cancer risk factors include:

  • Being over the age of 60.
  • Obesity.
  • A family history of ovarian cancer (others in your biological family have had the disease) or have inherited a gene mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or Lynch syndrome.
  • Never being pregnant or having children later in life.
  • Endometriosis.

There’s also an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer as you grow older.

Ovarian Cancer Diagnostics

Despite years of research, experts haven’t yet developed a successful ovarian cancer screening test. For this reason, the condition is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages.

If your healthcare provider suspects ovarian cancer, they’ll ask about your symptoms and perform a pelvic exam. During the exam, they’ll check for any abnormal growths or enlarged organs.

They may recommend additional tests, including:

Imaging tests

Providers may use several imaging tests, including:

  • Pelvic ultrasound.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
  • CT scan (computed tomography).
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography).

Blood tests

Blood tests look for a substance called CA-125. High levels of CA-125 in your blood can be a sign of cancer. However, CA-125 levels can be normal, even when cancer is present, and higher in many conditions that aren’t cancer. Because of this, providers use blood tests in combination with other tests to diagnose ovarian cancer.

Surgical evaluation

Providers can diagnose ovarian cancer during surgery. Typically, if they find abnormal growths, they’ll remove them during the same procedure.


During laparoscopic surgery, a surgeon places a thin camera (laparoscope) through a small cut (incision) made in your abdomen. Using the scope as a guide, along with additional ports to hold instruments, the surgeon can assess the cancer, perform staging biopsies and, in some circumstances, remove ovarian tumors.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

The goal in treating cancer is to remove as much, if not all, cancer from your body as possible. Common ovarian cancer treatments include:

  • Surgery. This typically involves the removal of your reproductive organs and any organ that has cancer on it. Your surgeon may use laparoscopy (a minimally invasive surgery) or laparotomy (open surgery that requires an abdominal incision).
  • Chemotherapy. Your provider may recommend chemotherapy either before or after surgery. Chemotherapy are drugs designed to target and kill cancerous cells. Your provider may give you chemotherapy intravenously (through a vein) or orally (in pill form).
  • Targeted therapy. This cancer treatment uses drugs to identify and attack cancer cells. Targeted therapy changes the way cancer cells grow and divide.
  • Hormone therapy. Some ovarian cancers use hormones to grow. This type of therapy blocks hormones, slowing or stopping the growth of cancer.
  • Radiation therapy. Providers rarely use radiation therapy for treatment of ovarian cancer.