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Ovarian Cancer Resources
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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

Ovaries produce human eggs and also make hormones. Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries in women.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Sometimes there are none, but some women report fatigue, abdominal bloating and pain, changes in urination frequency and difficulty eating because of indigestion or feeling too full to finish a meal. Painful intercourse and menstrual irregularities are also possibilities. In post-menopausal women, symptoms such as abnormal bleeding, breast tenderness and virilizing symptoms such as facial hair are sometimes seen. However, many of these symptoms also can be caused by other conditions besides ovarian cancer.

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
There is no screening test for ovarian cancer, but if symptoms suggest cancer, you will likely receive imaging, including a transvaginal ultrasound or CT scan and a blood tests. For a firm diagnosis, a biopsy is necessary. This can take several forms, depending on individual circumstances.

What are the treatments for ovarian cancer?
Surgical removal of all visible tumors is the primary treatment, followed by chemotherapy, in an effort to kill any remaining cancer cells. Other drugs and radiation may be also be given. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that a gynecologic oncologist should perform the initial surgery if possible.

Some ovarian cancer (called germ cell tumors) develop from different cells in the ovary. They behave similarly to testicular cancer and are usually treated the same way.

What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?
Some women develop ovarian cancer without having any risk factors, and other women have many risk factors but do not develop the disease. However, there are a number of factors associated with a higher risk of ovarian cancer:

  • Genetics are a factor for 20-25 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Women with a family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, colon or rectal cancer are at higher risk, as are women who have already had any of these cancers.
  • Endometriosis is associated with a higher risk.
  • Reproductive history affects risk. A lifetime of more menstrual cycles increases the risk, so early start of periods/late menopause, not having had children or having had them later in life, and not having breastfed are all associated with a higher risk. Having used certain fertility drugs may increase risk.
  • Age: Ovarian cancer can occur at any age but it most often occurs in women 40 and older.
  • Obesity increases a woman's risk.
  • Having used hormones after menopause increases risk.
  • Removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, hysterectomy and tubal ligation are all associated with reduced risks.
  • Use of talcum powder on the genitals may increase the risk.
What are some additional resources for learning about ovarian cancer?
If you or your loved one is facing ovarian cancer, CalvertHealth has a whole range of services designed to help you so you never take this journey alone. Please talk to your CalvertHealth provider or your Nurse Navigator, or check the service pages for information about treatments, services and support groups. You may also find more information on ovarian cancer from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.