Ovarian Epithelial Cancer | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

Ovarian Epithelial Cancer

Overview and Facts

Ovarian epithelial cancer develops on the outer surface of the ovaries. Epithelial tumors account for the majority of ovarian cancers and are referred to as carcinomas. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer are at an increased risk of developing a malignant (cancerous) epithelial tumor. Symptoms are not usually apparent in the earlier stages and the most common treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy. 

Why Choose Loyola for Ovarian Epithelial Cancer?

At Loyola, our expert doctors are committed to treating the whole person, not just the gynecologic cancer. The Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center provides expanded clinics, diagnostic capabilities and laboratories for the gynecologic oncology program.

Loyola doctors, specializing in the treatment of gynecologic cancer, provide state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for our patients. As a leading medical center, Loyola has extensive expertise in radical surgeries, minimally invasive surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted drug therapy.  Our interdisciplinary team of specialists works together to develop individualized treatment plans that result in the best outcomes for our patients.

Symptoms and Signs of Ovarian Epithelial Cancer

When ovarian epithelial cancer is in its earliest stages, symptoms are usually mild or not noticeable. It is usually when the cancer has advanced that symptoms are experienced. These signs include:

  • Clear, white or bloody vaginal discharge
  • Feeling of pressure in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Gas, bloating or constipation
  • Heavy or irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Lump in the pelvic area
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen or pelvic area

If you experience these symptoms and they do not lessen or go away on their own, see your Loyola doctor so you can be diagnosed and treated.

Causes and Risk Factors

While the cause of ovarian epithelial cancer is unknown, you are at a higher risk of developing it if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • Age: your risk increases as you get older
  • Genetic/hereditary predisposition to ovarian cancer
  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • Infertility

How Is Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Diagnosed?

Your Loyola doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history and conducting a thorough physical exam. Next, he/she will perform a pelvic exam to feel for abnormal areas and check for signs of disease. There are several imaging tests your doctor may recommend, including:

Other tests used to check for signs of cancer are a blood test called CA 125 assay and biopsy, in which your doctor removes a sample of cells or tissue from the affected area to examine in a lab. 

How Is Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treated?

The most common options for treatment of ovarian epithelial cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy. The goal in all these options is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. If your Loyola doctor recommends surgery, there are several alternatives, including:

  • Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) - Your Loyola surgeon may suggest laparoscopic or physician-guided robotic surgery for this procedure.  
  • Unilateral or bilateral salpingo-oophrectomy (removal of one or both ovaries)
  • Omentectomy (removal of the omentum (fatty tissue that cover contents of the abdomen))
  • Lymph node biopsy (removal of all or part of a lymph node)

Which treatment option is right for you depends on the tumor’s size, stage, location and whether it has spread.

As a female oncology patient at Loyola, you will receive the most advanced care from a team of specialists that include:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Social workers
  • Specialty radiologists

Loyola is committed to developing new and effective therapies for gynecologic tumors, with the goal of increasing cancer survival. As a top-ranking academic medical center, Loyola has access to the most current treatment options. In addition to clinical trials, we offer genetics testing, radiation oncology and state-of-the-art laparoscopic and robotic surgical procedures.

Prevention, Early Detection and Screening for Ovarian Epithelial Cancer

You can reduce your risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer by using oral contraceptives and with preventive surgery such as tubal ligation (i.e., having your tubes tied or tubal sterilization) 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 epithelial cancer has a high success rate of being cured if it is found early. Regular pelvic exams can help you catch it early. You should see your doctor right away if you notice any of the symptoms of ovarian epithelial cancer.

Learn more about the gynecologic cancer screening guidelines that Loyola follows for the early detection of gynecologic cancers.