Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a very serious disease since it’s often not found until an advanced stage, when treatment is more difficult. It’s diagnosed in about 22,500 women each year, developing most often in postmenopausal women, and occurs at a higher rate in white women.

Ovarian cancer occurs when cancer cells form in or near your ovaries. The ovaries are two small glands located on either side of your uterus. They produce female sex hormones and store and release eggs.

Epithelial ovarian cancer, in which a tumor forms in epithelial cells, is the most common type and usually occurs in women who are postmenopausal. Cancerous tumors occurring in other types of ovarian cells are more rare and generally affect younger women.

Our Premier Health board-certified gynecologic oncologists specialize in cancers of female reproductive organs and will guide you through every step of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care.

Detection And Prevention

Finding ovarian cancer early, when it’s most treatable, is your best defense. Ovarian cancer is aggressive and often spreads to other parts of the body before it’s discovered.

Your ovarian cancer risk might be higher if you:

  • Take estrogen without progesterone
  • Take hormone replacement therapy after menopause (estrogen alone or combined)
  • Have never given birth
  • Have unexplained infertility
  • Have been diagnosed with endometriosis
  • Have a personal of family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer)

A small number of women with a family history of cancer have inherited gene abnormalities, such as BRCA gene mutation. Talk to your doctor regarding recommendations for genetic testing if you have a relative – mother, sister, daughter – who’s had ovarian or breast cancer. Always check with your insurance provider regarding coverage for genetic testing.

There are no tests like mammograms or Pap tests to assist in ovarian cancer screening. A few tests are available, such as the CA-125, but they’re not recommended for women at average risk. They may be used if you’re at high risk or have symptoms that suggest ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor about ovarian cancer screening, as well as options for prevention, if you’re at higher risk for the disease.

The American Cancer Society states the following can decrease your risk for developing ovarian cancer:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Childbirth
  • Hysterectomy or tubal ligation
  • Use of contraceptives

Ovarian cancer symptoms can be difficult to recognize since they may be the result of many other conditions. This makes early diagnosis difficult. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Frequent bloating
  • Pain in your belly or pelvis
  • Trouble eating, or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary problems, such as an urgent need to urinate or urinating more often than usual
  • Unexplained weight loss

Pay attention to your body, and know what is normal for you. If you have one or more of these symptoms, they start suddenly, and they occur almost daily for two or three weeks, report them to your doctor.

Diagnosis

Ovarian cancer screening and diagnosis involves a combination of investigative methods that help us understand your specific cancer and plan treatment. These may include pelvic exam, surgical biopsy, and varied advanced imaging tools.

We may perform one or more of the below:

  • Pelvic ultrasound. This diagnostic test uses sound waves to make a picture of organs and structures in the pelvis (lower belly).
  • CA-125 blood test. The CA-125 blood test checks for a protein in your blood that can indicate ovarian cancer.
  • Surgical biopsy. This surgical procedure removes your ovaries to check them for cancer cells. Sometimes this procedure can be done laparoscopically, involving a tiny incision below your abdomen and insertion of a thin, lighted tube. Surgical biopsy is the only way to confirm ovarian cancer.

Treatment

We’ll consider the type, size, and stage of your ovarian cancer, plus your age and overall health, to recommend one or more of the following treatment strategies:

  • Surgery to remove the primary (main) cancer tumor or other tumors
  • Chemotherapy/radiation therapy to kill or stop the growth or spread of cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy/radiation therapy to prevent or delay your cancer's return
  • Symptom management for pain or other cancer-related symptoms

At Premier Health, our team has extensive experience in ovarian cancer treatment. Surgery to remove any tumors is the main treatment and typically involves removing one or both of your ovaries. Depending on your type of cancer, you may need a hysterectomy, in which your uterus and fallopian tubes will also be removed.

Our board-certified gynecologic oncologists offer traditional surgery as well as advanced, minimally invasive surgical techniques, including robotic-assisted surgery.

For more advanced stages of cancer, surgery often is part of an effective treatment plan, along with continuously advancing medical therapies and/or radiation therapy — all highly customized to fight your specific cancer.

After ovarian cancer treatment, we’ll continue to monitor your recovery through follow-up exams and testing.

Keeping You Safe During COVID-19

You will find new safety measures in place when you schedule appointments and come to our facilities — all with the goal of keeping you safe as we care for you.

Contact Us

Our cancer team is here for you. Our cancer specialists have access to nationally recognized cancer care protocols and best practices, since Premier Health is a certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our patients benefit from advanced local care backed by the world-renowned expertise of the nation’s leading cancer center. 

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.