About Ovarian Cancer

What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

Approximately 75% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, after the cancer has spread beyond the ovary. For this reason, it's important to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer so that it can be detected at the earliest possible stage.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Possible ovarian cancer symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, constipation, pain with intercourse and menstrual irregularities.

If you have these symptoms almost daily for more than two weeks, see a gynecologist.

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

There is currently no effective screening tool for ovarian cancer. A pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer.

To assist with the diagnosis experts recommend a pelvic/rectal exam, a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test.

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

  • Family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer
  • Age. Ovarian cancer is most common in women 55 and older, but young women do get ovarian cancer
  • Reproductive history, including never having been pregnant, early menstruation and infertility, among others
  • Personal history of premenopausal breast cancer

Treatments for Ovarian Cancer

Surgery is often a major component of treatment for ovarian cancer. Studies show that ovarian cancer patients whose surgeries are performed by gynecologic oncologists, surgeons specially trained in treating women's under the belt cancers, have better outcomes.

Chemotherapy and newer therapies that interrupt the blood supply to tumors or exploit mutations that interfere with DNA repair are also being used today to treat ovarian cancer.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells on or in one or both ovaries. Recent research shows the most common form of ovarian cancer is now believed to originate in the fallopian tubes. Like all malignant tumors, ovarian malignant tumors can divide and reproduce more rapidly than normal cells. In later stages of the cancer, these tumors can spread throughout the pelvis and abdomen.

Talk with an ovarian cancer survivor

Call SHARE's helpline at 866-53-SHARE (866-537-4273).

Additional Resources

Recording and slides from SHARE's Webinar, "Strategies for Long-term Management of Recurrent Ovarian Cancer", with Dr. June Hou, Dr. Jason Wright, and Survivor/Advocate Annie Ellis.

Check out this video by N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) to learn "What Every Woman Needs to Know"

Visit our library for more resources

National Helpline: