Ovarian cancer, cancer of the ovaries, is often called a silent killer because it has no symptoms in the early stages and signs such as swelling can be easy to ignore.
Ovarian cancer rates are declining in the US, but it remains one of the most common cancers in women.
About 1 in 78 women in the US will get ovarian cancer in her lifetime.
Anyone with ovaries can develop ovarian cancer, but some groups are at higher risk
Most of the new diagnoses are among women 63 years and older.
Ovarian cancer affects more white women than black women.
There are more than 30 subtypes of ovarian cancer. The 3 main types are:
Ovarian epithelial carcinomas (85-90% of cases): most common, often diagnosed in advanced stages. It affects the outer surface of the ovary.
Germ cell tumors (2%): Usually affects women in their teens or 20s. It begins inside the ova (ovules).
Stromal cell tumors (1%): The rarest form, often found in the early stages. It develops in the tissues around the ovaries.
Ovarian Cancer Stages and Survival Rates
Ovarian cancer is assigned a stage when it is diagnosed. The earlier the stage, the greater the chances of treatment success.
- Level 1: earlier disease, the tumor has not spread
- Stage 2: the cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as the uterus
- stage 3: Cancer has spread beyond nearby organs to the lymph nodes or lining of the abdomen
- Stage 4 (metastatic ovarian cancer): the cancer has moved to the lungs, liver, and/or other distant organs
Ovarian cancer symptoms
In the early stages, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be so subtle that they can be confused with other problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, a urinary tract infection, or even constipation. By the time symptoms are most noticeable, the disease has often spread. This is why early detection is vital.
The most common signs and symptoms include:
Abdominal pain and swelling
Pelvic pain/low back pain Feeling full quickly or difficulty eating
Urgent and frequent urination.
constipation or diarrhea
Fatigue/low energy levels
Abnormal vaginal bleeding/discharge
Ovarian cancer tests
Tumor markers: Helps identify cancer cells in your body
genetic test: looks for mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that indicate an increased risk of developing hereditary ovarian cancer
Complete blood count (CBC): provides information about the health of your body
Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP): Provides information on metabolism and chemical balance.
Ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Shows what is happening inside your body: if there is a mass, where it is, and how big it is.
If you have concerns or symptoms, especially if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, talk to your health care provider. Be proactive with your health!
This resource was created with the support of Merck.