What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant or cancerous cells are found in the ovaries. An ovary is one of two small, almond-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus that store eggs or germ cells and produce female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body (in this case the ovary) begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.1

Every year nearly 22,530 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer; 13,980 women die yearly from the disease. In women, ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths. Over their lifetime, 1 in 78 women will develop ovarian cancer.2


  • All women are at risk
  • 1 in 78 women will develop Ovarian Cancer
  • A Pap Test DOES NOT detect Ovarian Cancer3
  • Symptoms exist – they can be vague but generally increase
    over time
  • Number 1 cause of gynecologic cancer deaths
  • Fifth leading cause of death in women
  • Eleventh most common cancer in women
  • Every 23 minutes another woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the US
  • Early detection increases survival rate


If symptoms persist daily for more than 2 weeks, contact your physician as soon as possible.
    • Bloating
    • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
    • Pelvic or abdominal pain
    • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
    • Fatigue
    • Upset stomach or heartburn
    • Back pain
    • Pain during intercourse
    • Constipation
    • Menstrual Changes4

Increased Risk Factors

  • Genetic predisposition – BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation3
  • Personal or family history of breast, ovarian, uterine or colon cancer
  • Early age onset of menstrual periods or late age of menopause
  • Increasing age (40+)
  • Post-menopausal
  • Infertility

*BRCA1 and BRCA2  are hereditary genetic mutations (can be passed from parent to offspring regardless of gender). Consult with your doctor about genetic testing if you have a family history  of breast, ovarian, prostate or pancreatic cancer.5


Decreased Risk Factors

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Prophylactic hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries)

*even with preventative measures taken, including prophylactic hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, ovarian cancer is still possible.

Testing for Ovarian Cancer

Screenings for Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Risk Factors River Valley Ovarian Cancer Alliance Fort Smith Arkansas Support GroupOvarian Cancer screenings include a CA 125 blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound.

CA 125 Blood Tests: CA 125 is a protein in the blood that is elevated when a woman has ovarian cancer. The trouble is, this protein also increases when a woman has other health problems that do not involve cancer. The test can help find ovarian cancer, but is not 100% accurate.

Transvaginal Ultrasound: During a pelvic exam, an ultrasound technician will insert a small device similar to a tampon into your vagina. The device uses sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. Ultrasounds can find abnormal growths on the ovaries, but they cannot tell whether the growths are caused by cancer. Sometimes less serious health problems, or even normal changes that happen during a woman’s menstrual cycle, can cause these growths.

Who Should be Screened for Ovarian Cancer?

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or have a genetic predisposition that puts you at risk, discuss screening options with your doctor to determine what is is right for you. The purpose of screening is that it helps doctors find cancer early, when it is easier to treat. With Ovarian Cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis.

Source: www.update.com©2015 UpToDate® Patient Information: Ovarian cancer screening (The Basics)