Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. It is usually named for the part of the body it begins, even if it spreads to other parts later.
Ovarian cancer is a group of diseases that originates in the ovaries, or in the related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum (the tissue lining that covers organs in the abdomen). Women have two ovaries that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the womb. The ovaries make female hormones (progesteron and oestrogen) and produce eggs. Women have two fallopian tubes that are a pair of long, slender tubes on each side of the womb. Eggs pass from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes to the womb.
It is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women. It is more common in whites than in blacks. Statistically, greater than 200,000 women are estimated to develop ovarian cancer yearly and about 100,000 die from the disease. The lifetime risk of a woman developing epithelial ovarian cancer is one in 70.



The early-stage of ovarian cancer causes minimal, non-specific or no symptoms. Most cases are diagnosed in the advanced stage.
Symptoms associated with the advanced stage of the disease includes;

  1. Bloating or pressure in the abdomen
  2. Abdominal and pelvic pain
  3. Early satiety- feeling full too quickly during eating
  4. Urinating more frequently
  5. Nausea and vomiting
  6. Constipation
  7. Diarrhoea
  8. Weightloss


The cause is not known. However, several risk and contributing factors have been identified.
Generally, cancer begins when there is mutation (error) in a cell’s DNA. The mutations tell the cell to grow and multiply quickly, creating a mass (tumour) of abnormal cells. The abnormal cells continue living when healthy cells would die. They can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body (metastases).


Types of ovarian cancer

The type of ovarian cancer is determined by the type of cell it develops. They include;

  • Epithelial ovarian carcinoma. A malignant tumour that develops from cells on the surface of the fimbria of fallopian tube or the ovaries. About 90% of all ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinoma. It may spread to the peritoneal cavity and its structures,lungs and lymph nodes.Some epithelial carcinoma may not be clearly cancerous. They are known as Low Malignant Potential (LMP) tumours or borderline tumours. LMP grow slowly and are less dangerous.
  • Sex-cord stromal tumour. It develops in the ovarian tissue that contain cells producing hormones. About 7% of ovarian cancer are of this type.
  • Germ cell tumour. Arises in the egg-producing cells. It is rare and occur in younger women.
  • Primary peritoneal carcinoma.
  • Metastatic tumour of the ovary.


The factors that increase the risk of ovarian cancer includes;

  1. Age. It is the strongest risk factor. Most common after a woman goes through menopause. Peak age between 50-60 years.
  2. Family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer account for 10% of cancer cause.
  3. Inherited gene mutation: A small percentage of ovarian cancers are caused by gene mutations inherited from parents. The genes known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer are called breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes also increase the risk of breast cancer. Other gene mutations, including those associated with Lynch syndrome, are known to increase the risk of ovarian carcinoma.
  4. Parity: there is high risk of epithelial carcinoma in women who have not had children. Women who have been pregnant have a 50% decrease in risk for developing ovarian cancer compare with those who had never experience pregnancy.
  5. Early menarche and late menopause . Starting menstruation at an early age or beginning menopause at a later age, or both, may increase the risk of this disease.
  6. Obesity: risk higher in obese women compare to non-obese women.
  7. Hormone therapy: use of postmenopausal hormone therapy may increase risk of ovarian cancer.
  8. Endometriosis.
  9. Use of talcum powder on the vulvar and perineum may be associated with high risk of epithelial ovarian carcinoma.
  10. High lactose consumption.


The major complication of ovarian cancer is spread (metastases) to other sites such as the abdomen, bone and lungs.

  • Bowel obstructions: may occur both due to metastases in the abdomen and pelvis, and adhesions (scar tissue) formed after abdominal or pelvic surgery (including surgery for ovarian cancer).
  • Perforated Colon: this cancer tends to spread to the wall of the intestines and grow. Tissue can weaken, setting the stage for bowel perforation that results in the bowel contents leaking into the abdominal cavity and causing an infection (peritonitis).
  • Blockage of a Ureter/Urinary Retention: It can spread in the pelvis, blocking the tubes that travel from the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters).
  • Pleural Effusion: spread to the lungs or the chest region, fluid may build up between the membranes that line the lungs (the pleura). Sometimes this fluid contains cancer cells and is referred to as a malignant pleural effusion.
  • Bone Pain: pain related to bone metastases can be severe, but there are many options including bone-modifying drugs and radiation therapy that can help.


stages of ovarian cancer

STAGE I – cancer confined to one or both ovaries.
STAGE II– cancer spread to womb or nearby organs.
STAGE III– spread to the lymph nodes and abdominal lining.
STAGE IV– cancer spread to distant organs such as lungs and liver.


-5 years relative survival rate that range from 93% to 19% of epithelial ovarian carcinoma depending on the stage.
-LMP tumour 5 years survival rate is between 97% to 89%


There is no reliable way to test for ovarian cancer if a woman is assymptomatic. If symptoms that could be ovarian cancer are noticed, a doctor may suggest a rectovaginal pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, or a CA-125 blood test (a tumour marker) to help find the cause.


ovarian cancer scan

Imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans, can help reveal an ovarian mass. But these scans can’t determine whether the abnormality is cancer. If cancer is suspected, the next step is usually biopsy ( surgical removal of the suspected tissue). A sample is then sent to the lab for further examination


ovarian cancer treatment

Surgery is used to diagnose ovarian cancer and determine its stage, but it is also the first phase of treatment. The goal is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. This may include a single ovary (oophorectomy) and nearby tissue in stage I. In later stages, it may be necessary to remove both ovaries , along with the uterus and surrounding tissues.

In all stages of ovarian cancer, chemotherapy is usually given after surgery. This phase of treatment uses drugs to target and kill any remaining cancer in the body. Women with LMP tumors usually do NOT need chemotherapy unless the tumors grow back after surgery.

Researchers are working on therapies that target the way the cancer grows. A process called angiogenesis involves the formation of new blood vessels to feed tumors. A drug called Avastin blocks this process, causing tumors shrinkage or stop their growth.

It focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. Palliative care can be used while undergoing other aggressive treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy.


the pills

There are no proven ways to completely eliminate the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Factors that have been shown to lower the risk of developing this disease include:

  1. Use of birth control pills: women who have used pills for a minimum of 5years have about half the risk of developing ovarian carcinoma compared to women who never took pills.
  2. Tubal ligation: a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are permanently blocked or removed.
  3. Hysterectomy: surgical removal of the womb.
  4. Oophorectomy.
  5. Eating low fat diet.
  6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding.

F.O. Adagbonyin, MB.BS in view, certified content creator at Medblog180 and MedicWord, licensed google writer and contributing writer at WikiMedia Foundation.


  • https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/255771-overview#a3
  • https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/basic_info/index.htm
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375946
  • https://www.webmd.com/ovarian-cancer/ss/slideshow-ovarian-cancer-overview
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer/ovarian-cancer-early-signs#prevention

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