Ovarian cancer is a malignant growth of cells within the ovaries. These cells reproduce rapidly, causing damage to healthy tissues.
There are two ovaries in the female reproductive system, one on either side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size of an almond, and it produces eggs (ova) and hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. In most cases, ovarian cancer is treated with surgery and chemotherapy.
Scientists believe ovarian cancer is caused by cells located in or close to the ovaries that become mutated (changed). A cell’s DNA carries instructions for its function. Cancer cells grow and multiply rapidly when they are altered, forming a mass of cancer cells. At the same time, healthy cells die, cancer cells live on. Cancer cells can break off from an initial tumor and invade nearby tissues so they can spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).
As ovarian cancer develops, it may not cause any noticeable symptoms. This disease is usually attributed to other more common conditions when the symptoms occur. The symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
Factors that increase your risk of ovarian cancer include:
Tests and procedures used to diagnose ovarian cancer include:
Your doctor will assign a stage to your cancer once you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The stages range from 1 to 4, which are often denoted with Roman numerals I to IV. The lowest stage indicates that the cancer is confined to the ovaries.
There are no exact ways how you can prevent ovarian cancer, but there may be ways to lessen your risk:
Treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Other treatments may be used in certain situations.
Medications approved to use for the treatment of ovarian cancer include: