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Ovarian cancer care

Allina Health offers a full range of cancer care services for women with gynecological and reproductive cancers, including ovarian cancer (cancer that forms in the ovaries and fallopian tubes).

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What it is

Ovarian cancer occurs when cancer cells are found in and near a woman’s ovaries. Although it’s not common, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other reproductive cancer in women. The good news is that when found early, ovarian cancer is very treatable.

What to expect

Ovarian cancer symptoms can be difficult to notice and hard to detect. That is why it is important to know what's typical for your body. You may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms until an advanced stage of the disease when it is difficult to treat

Symptoms may include:

  • a heavy feeling in your pelvis

  • pain in your lower stomach

  • vaginal bleeding or abnormal periods

  • weight gain or loss

  • unexplained back pain that gets worse

  • gas, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite

  • unusual fatigue

  • back pain

  • pain during sex

Good to know

If your tumor is classified as benign it is non-cancerous and may never spread beyond the ovaries. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of your body and may be fatal.

Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • A family history of ovarian cancer
  • Being overweight
  • Genetic factors
  • Never having children. The more children you have, the less likely you are to develop ovarian cancer.
  • Some types of hormone replacement therapy
  • Your age: the greatest risk comes after menopause, at age 60 or older.

Good for preventing


Genetic counseling and testing is recommended if you have a family history of ovarian cancer or the BRCA mutation. Women who are at high risk for ovarian cancer be screened regularly. You are considered high risk if you have:

  • hereditary breast / ovarian cancer syndrome
  • hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also called Lynch syndrome
  • the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene
  • the BRIP1, RAP51C or RAD51D gene

Preventing ovarian cancer

  • Gynecologic surgery. Tubal ligation and hysterectomy may reduce your risk of developing certain ovarian cancers; however, they should be done only for valid medical reasons and not to simply to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Use birth control pills. Women who take birth control pills for five years or more decrease their risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 50 percent. Because birth control pills have risks and side effects, discuss whether or not you should take them with your doctor.

Good for detecting

Diagnosis of ovarian cancer can include:

  • a pelvic exam
  • biopsy through surgery, laparoscopy or fine needle aspiration (FNA)
  • CA-125 blood test
  • Imaging
    • chest X-ray
    • CT scan
    • MRI
    • PET scan
    • transvaginal ultrasound

If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. Treatment depends on factors, including:

  • the size of the tumor after surgery (debulking)
  • the stage of the cancer
  • your age and overall health
  • your desire to have children

Treatment can include:

  • a combination of surgery done by a gynecological or surgical oncologist
  • chemotherapy
  • intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IP therapy)
  • radiation therapy

Related links

Source: Allina Health
Reviewed by: Allina Health Cancer Care

First published: 5/30/2019
Last reviewed: 5/30/2019