Munson Health
Ovarian Cancer

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by LaRusso L

(Cancer of the Ovaries; Cancer, Ovarian)


Risk Factors

Ovarian cancer is most common in women age 50 or older. Factors that may increase your chance of getting ovarian cancer include:
Use of birth control pills for more than five years appears to decrease the risk of getting ovarian cancer.


Many ovarian tumors grow to be very large without showing symptoms. Symptoms often only appear in the later stages. These tumors can also be hard to find during a physical exam. As a result, about 70% of patients are found with advanced disease.
Symptoms include:
  • Abdominal discomfort and/or pain
  • Gas, indigestion , pressure, swelling, bloating, or cramps
  • Nausea, diarrhea , constipation , or frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling of fullness even after only a light meal
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
  • Hair growth, voice deepening, acne , loss of menstrual periods in some rare stromal tumors


Treatment depends on the extent of the cancer and your general health.
Treatments include:


The cancerous tumor and nearby tissue will be removed. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream. They travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well.

Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)

This therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be:
  • External radiation therapy—radiation directed at the abdomen from a source outside the body
  • Intra-abdominal P32—sometimes a radioactive solution may be introduced into the abdomen as part of treatment


American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute



Canadian Cancer Society

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada



Detailed guide: ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed January 6, 2014.

Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 31, 2013. Accessed January 6, 2014.

Ovarian cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed January 6, 2014.

9/18/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance FDA clears a test for ovarian cancer. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: Published September 11, 2009. Accessed January 6, 2014.


Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2013
  • Update Date: 02/10/2014