Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Ovarian Cancer

Conditions A-Z - Ovarian Cancer

Illustration of the anatomy of the female pelvic area
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What are the ovaries?

The ovaries are female reproductive organs located in the pelvis. There are two of them—one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone control the development of female body characteristics (for example, breasts, body shape and body hair) and regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancer starts in the cells of the ovary. There are three types of ovarian tumors, named for the tissue in which they are found:

What is extra-ovarian primary peritoneal carcinoma (EOPPC)?

Extra-ovarian primary peritoneal carcinoma (EOPPC) is a rare cancer closely related to epithelial ovarian cancer. It occurs outside the ovary in the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdomen (belly). Because it occurs outside the ovary, women who have had their ovaries removed can still develop this type of cancer.

EOPPC can mimic ovarian cancer in terms of symptoms and can also cause an increase in the CA-125 tumor marker. Treatment is similar to that for ovarian cancer and includes surgery and chemotherapy.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk factors.

Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop cancer, while others develop cancer and have no known risk factors.

But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

What causes ovarian cancer?

The cause of ovarian cancer is not yet known. An estimated 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer are expected in the U.S. in 2012. Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common form of cancer among women.

What are risk factors for ovarian cancer?

The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, but there are certain risk factors that indicate an increase in a woman's chance of developing ovarian cancer. The following have been suggested as risk factors for ovarian cancer:

How can ovarian cancer be prevented?

Suggested preventive measures include the following:

Research studies have shown that certain genes are responsible for increasing the risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Genetic counseling can tell you whether you have one of these gene mutations. If your family history suggests that you may have one of these gene mutations, you might want to talk to your doctor about genetic testing.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

The following are the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

If any of these symptoms occur almost daily or last a few weeks and are new, the woman should seek the attention of her doctor. In many cases, symptoms do not occur until the ovarian cancer is in an advanced stage, meaning it has spread beyond the ovary in which it started. The symptoms of ovarian cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis includes a medical history and physical examination, including a pelvic examination to check the vagina, rectum, and lower abdomen for masses or growths. A Pap test may be done as part of the pelvic examination. The doctor may also order other tests, including:

Treatment for ovarian cancer

Specific treatment for ovarian cancer will be determined by your doctor based on:

Ovarian cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of treatments.

Another treatment for ovarian cancer is intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. This type of chemotherapy is given directly into the abdomen through a catheter (a long, thin tube). It is only used for women with ovarian cancer that has spread to the inside of the abdomen.

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