Ovarian Cancer | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

Ovarian Cancer

Why Choose Loyola for Ovarian Cancer?

Beginning in the reproductive glands called the ovaries, ovarian cancer can develop from tumors in the ovaries’ cells. These tumors are: epithelial (begin in the outer surface), germ cell (begin in the cells that produce eggs) and stromal (begin in the structural tissue cells). In most cases, these tumors are not cancerous and do not spread beyond the ovary.

Tumors that become cancerous and spread to other parts of the body cause ovarian cancer and must be treated immediately.

Symptoms and Signs of Ovarian Cancer

When ovarian cancer is in its earliest stages, symptoms are usually mild and easily confused with other conditions such as constipation, other non-cancerous diseases and cancers of other organs. When the following symptoms become more consistent and/or severe, you should talk to your doctor:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Back pain
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Discomfort in the pelvis area
  • Fatigue
  • Pain during sexual activity
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Upset stomach
  • More frequent urination
  • Weight loss

Causes and Risk Factors of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is most common in women between 50 and 60 years old, and in women who began menstruating before age 12 or reached menopause after age 50.

While the cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, higher risk is associated with:

How Is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

 Your doctor will first perform a thorough medical exam and pelvic exam to determine if you have ovarian cancer. Additional tests include:

  • Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, Barium enema and/or PET scan
  • Laparoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy: to remove a sample of tissue of the growth
  • Blood tests: to count the number of red and white blood cells and platelets and to identify tumor markers such as HCG and levels of CA-125 

How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?

You and your doctor will work together to create a treatment plan that is right for you. Deciding on how to treat your ovarian cancer depends on a number of factors, including your general health, your age and whether you plan to have children. Treatment also depends on what kind of tumor you have (epithelial, germ cell or stromal) and its stage.

Treatment options include:

Depending on how extensive your surgery, it may affect your ability to have children. It is important to discuss surgical and other options with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you. 

Prevention, Early Detection and Screening for Ovarian Cancer

You can reduce your risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer by using oral contraceptives and with preventive surgery such as tubal ligation and hysterectomy. If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or an inherited gene mutation that is linked to ovarian cancer, you should consider genetic testing to determine your risk.

Ovarian cancer has a high rate of success being cured if it is found early. You should have regular pelvic exams and see your doctor right away if you notice any of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.