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Quick Facts

Ovarian Cancer


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
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What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is cancer in a woman’s ovaries. Ovaries are the two sex glands that hold a woman's eggs.

  • Ovarian cancer usually happens in women between the ages of 50 and 70

  • Ovarian cancer is hard to find early because it often doesn't cause symptoms at first

  • To treat ovarian cancer, doctors usually remove both ovaries, both fallopian tubes, and the uterus

Internal Female Genital Organs

Internal Female Genital Organs

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

The first symptom may be discomfort in your lower belly area as an ovary gets bigger.

Other early symptoms may include:

  • Bloating

  • Not feeling hungry

  • Gas pains

  • Backache

Later symptoms may include:

  • Swollen belly

  • Pain in your lower belly

  • Weight loss

How can doctors tell if I have ovarian cancer?

It can be hard to catch ovarian cancer early because there aren't many clear symptoms. And your doctor may not find anything abnormal during your regular checkup. Once in a while, your doctor might find that one of your ovaries feels larger than it should.

If your doctor suspects you might have ovarian cancer, you'll usually have an:

If the ultrasound looks like you have cancer, your doctor may do:

  • CT scan or MRI to see where the cancer might have spread

  • Blood tests

How do doctors treat ovarian cancer?

Doctors treat ovarian cancer with surgery, usually removing the:

  • Ovaries

  • Fallopian tubes

  • Uterus

Doctors then usually give you chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer.

Depending on where the cancer has spread, doctors may use chemotherapy instead of or before surgery.

Unless it's caught early, ovarian cancer often comes back after treatment. Doctors use chemotherapy to treat ovarian cancer that comes back.

How can I prevent ovarian cancer?

Some women have genes that increase the risk of ovarian cancer. These genes are called BRCA1 and BRCA2. They also increase the risk of breast cancer. If you have family members who've had breast or ovarian cancer, you should talk to your doctor about gene testing. If you have one of these genes, having your ovaries removed may help prevent cancer.

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Cancers of the Female Reproductive System
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