Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) as well as the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is difficult to treat and is often fatal.
Ovarian cancer treatments are available. Researchers are studying ways to improve ovarian cancer treatment and looking into ways to detect ovarian cancer at an earlier stage — when a cure is more likely.
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) ...
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are not specific to the disease, and they often mimic those of many other more-common conditions, including digestive problems.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
When to see a doctor
If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your risk of ovarian cancer. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor to discuss testing for certain gene mutations that increase your risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Female reproductive system
The ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vagina (vaginal canal) make up the female reproductive system. ...
It's not clear what causes ovarian cancer.
In general, cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic mutation that turns normal cells into abnormal cells. Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. Cancer cells grow and multiply out of control, and they don't die when they should.
As abnormal cells accumulate, they form a mass (tumor). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can break off from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body (metastasize).
Types of ovarian cancer
The type of ovarian cancer you have helps determine your prognosis and treatment options.
Certain factors may increase your risk of ovarian cancer. Having one or more of these risk factors doesn't mean that you're sure to develop ovarian cancer, but your risk may be higher than that of the average woman. These risk factors include:
Preparing for your appointment
Start by making an appointment with your family doctor, general practitioner or a gynecologist if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If your primary care doctor suspects you have ovarian cancer, you may be referred to a specialist in female reproductive cancers (gynecologic oncologist). A gynecologic oncologist is an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) who has additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian and other gynecologic cancers.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For ovarian cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosing ovarian cancer
Staging ovarian cancer
Stages of ovarian cancer include:
In a pelvic exam, your physician inserts two gloved fingers inside your vagina. While simultaneously pressing down on your abdomen, he or she can examine your uterus, ovaries and other organs....
Treatments and drugs
Treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
Less extensive surgery may be possible if your ovarian cancer was diagnosed at a very early stage. For women with stage I ovarian cancer, surgery may involve removing one ovary and its fallopian tube. This procedure may preserve the ability to have children.
Coping and support
A diagnosis of ovarian cancer can be extremely worrisome and challenging. Even when a full recovery is likely, you may be concerned about a recurrence. But no matter what your prognosis, here are some strategies and resources that may make dealing with cancer easier:
There's no sure way to prevent ovarian cancer. But there may be ways to reduce your risk:
Last Updated: 2012-11-10
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