Although ovarian cancer is the ninth most common form of cancer among women, it is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths. This form of cancer is most common among women older than age 55. In terms of ethnicity, ovarian cancer is more common among Caucasian women than African-American or Latina women.
The causes of ovarian cancer are not known, but genetics and environmental risk factors have shown an increased chance of development among women. Some other risk factors which may lead to the development of ovarian cancer include:
- Family history. Women with family members who have had ovarian cancer are at increased risk of development. Also, a family history of the following forms of cancer can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer: breast, uterus, colon, and rectum.
- Personal history of cancer. Women with a personal history of cancer, especially of the breast, uterus, colon or rectum.
- Age. A majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are older than age 55.
- Never pregnant/infertility. Women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Estrogen therapy. Estrogen therapy is a typical form of treatment for menopause symptoms but, if estrogen is used without progesterone, ovarian cancer has been known to develop.
- Diet/exercise. A high-fat diet can increase the chance of several cancers, especially because such can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor in itself.
Signs and symptoms
Typical symptoms include:
- Pressure or pain in the abdomen
- A swollen or bloated abdomen
- Trouble eating/feeling full quickly
- Urinary changes – frequency or urgency
Some less common symptoms are:
- Upset stomach or nausea
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual changes
Treatment. The primary form of treatment for ovarian cancer is surgery. In most cases, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) is performed. Depending on the individual case and the stage of cancer, chemotherapy may be recommended. Radiation therapy is rarely used for the initial treatment of ovarian cancer. In some cases, it is used to treat pain or side effects caused by the disease.
Find out more about our gynecologic cancer treatment program and gynecologic cancer screening services.