Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. The cancer begins in the ovaries or the ends of the fallopian tubes. The ovaries are the main source of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries are made up of three main kinds of cells. Each type of cell can develop into a different type of tumor.

Generally, women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread beyond the ovaries, but even early-stage ovarian cancer can cause them. The most common symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, frequent urination and pelvic pressure with difficulty having bowel movements.

Treatment options

Treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. If the disease is confined to one or both ovaries, with no obvious spread to other organs, the primary disease is removed and a staging procedure is performed. This could involve removal of the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus and nearby lymph nodes, biopsies from the pelvis and abdomen and removal of a fold of fatty abdominal tissue where ovarian cancer often spreads, called the omentum. For more advanced disease there would be an effort to remove all of the obvious disease if possible. After surgery, chemotherapy would be offered to kill any remaining cancer cells.

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This well-known cancer treatment uses medicines taken intravenously or by mouth to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink tumors, or after to fight cancer cells that have potentially spread.

Debulking surgery
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This surgery treats the most common form of ovarian cancer, when it has spread beyond the ovaries. As much cancer as possible is removed from the abdomen.

Radiation oncology
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A team of medical professionals with advanced training deliver radiation treatment and care.

Targeted drug therapy
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A series of anti-cancer drugs aimed at preventing cancer cells from spreading.

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