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Ovarian Cancer

< Gynecologic Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancers were previously believed to begin only in the ovaries, but recent evidence suggests that many ovarian cancers may actually start in the cells in the far (distal) end of the fallopian tubes. 

The ovaries are mainly made up of three kinds of cells. Each type of cell can develop into a different type of tumor:

  1. Epithelial tumors start from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary. Most ovarian tumors are epithelial cell tumors.
  2. Germ cell tumors start from the cells that produce the eggs (ova).
  3. Stromal tumors start from structural tissue cells that hold the ovary together and produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Some of these tumors are benign (non-cancerous) and never spread beyond the ovary. Malignant (cancerous) or borderline (low malignant potential) ovarian tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and can be fatal.


  • Abdominal swelling with weight loss
  • Back pain
  • Bloating
  • Changes in a woman's period, such as heavier bleeding than normal or irregular bleeding
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Upset stomach
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often)

Risk Factors

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Getting older
  • Having a family cancer syndrome
  • Having a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer
  • Having children later or never having a full-term pregnancy
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Taking hormone therapy after menopause
  • Using fertility treatment