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Symptoms and Signs of Ovarian Cancer

Doctor's Notes on Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal ovarian cells forms a tumor in one or both of the ovaries. There are several types of ovarian cancers; the type of cell that originates the abnormal growth determines class of ovarian tumors. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer (most types) do not occur until late in the disease when the tumor has grown large enough to apply pressure to other organs. The earliest symptom and sign of the disease can be menstrual irregularity. Signs and symptoms that come later in this disease may include

In most individuals, the primary cause of ovarian cancer development is unknown. Related causes that may play a role in ovarian cancer development may include

  • family history,
  • the patient has a mother,
  • sister or daughter that has the disease,
  • hereditary symptoms such as mutation in a gene called BRAC1,
  • hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome and
  • site-specific ovarian cancer syndrome.

Other factors that increase ovarian cancer cell risk may include

  • age greater than 50 years,
  • no pregnancies,
  • use of fertility drugs,
  • Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and Anglo heritage,
  • asbestos exposure, and
  • repeated exposure of genitals to talc powder irradiation of the pelvic area some viruses (for example, mumps virus).

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/6/2020


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.