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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, and causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer. Unfortunately, no screening test exists for ovarian cancer; however women are advised to have annual pelvic exams as an ovarian mass can often be felt during these exams, and watch for signs and symptoms listed below. Woman who have had breast cancer or have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer may be at increased risk; women over age 55 are at higher risk.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague, and can easily be blamed on more common conditions. See your doctor if you have the following symptoms on a daily basis for more than a few weeks:

  • Bloating or swelling of the belly area
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Pelvic or lower abdominal pain, or a sense of heaviness in the pelvic area


Tests such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT or MRI may be used to help diagnose ovarian cancer. Surgery such as a pelvic laparoscopy or pelvic laparotomy may be done to investigate, and a biopsy confirms the diagnosis.


  • Surgery is used to treat all stages of ovarian cancer. For early stages and low-grade tumors, surgery may be the only treatment. Surgery may involve removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes or total hysterectomy, and removal of other tissues and structures as needed. Most surgeries for ovarian cancer involve an open procedure.
  • Lymph nodes in the pelvis and abdomen are examined and biopsied to check for spread of the disease.
  • Depending on the stage, grade and type of tumor, chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery. Chemotherapy may be delivered through an IV, or given directly into the abdominal cavity through a novel approach known as intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
  • Clinical trials offer cutting-edge therapies in addition to standard care treatment.