Ovarian cancer occurs when cells in the ovaries, the female reproductive glands, become abnormal and grow out of control.
Only about 20% of cases of ovarian cancer are found at an early stage.
The most common symptoms that may be some of the first signs of ovarian cancer include:
- Bloating/abdominal distension
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Weight loss
- Menstrual changes, such as heavier bleeding than normal or irregular bleeding
- Mass felt in the abdomen
What Causes Ovarian Cancer?
The cause of most ovarian cancers is unknown.
Risk factors that may make a woman more likely to develop ovarian cancer include:
- Inherited or acquired genetic mutations
- Older age: most cases develop after menopause
- A family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer
- Having breast cancer
- Being overweight or obese
- Having children later or never carrying a pregnancy to term
- Hormone therapy taken after menopause
- Having a family cancer syndrome
- Fertility treatments
How Is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed with a medical history and pelvic examination.
Testing to confirm a diagnosis of ovarian cancer or to rule out another condition may include:
- Imaging tests:
- Blood tests
- CA-125 test
- Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
- Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
- Estrogen and testosterone
Genetic counseling and genetic testing for certain inherited gene changes may be recommended for women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer.
What Is the Treatment for Ovarian Cancer?
Treatment for ovarian cancer may include one or more of the following: