Health A-Z

Ovarian Cancer

Clinical Definition

Ovarian carcinoma is a malignant tumor that most often originates in the epithelial cells of the ovaries, with 90 percent of affected women older than 40, and many in their 50s and 60s. The etiology is not known, but women who have an early menopause, family history of ovarian cancer or who are nulligravida are at increased risk, while those who have given birth or who have used oral contraceptives are at lower risk. In early stages, ovarian cancer cancer has few symptoms. In later stages, bloating, abdominal swelling and weight loss can occur. Treatment includes oophorectomy and chemotherapy.

In Our Own Words

Ovarian cancer is a malignant tumor of the ovaries, most commonly from cells in the ovary known as epithelial cells. It can be treated when found in its early stages. However, few symptoms are usually noticeable in the early stages. Women who go through the change of life early, those who have never been pregnant and those with a family history are at higher than average risk. The first sign is often an enlarged ovary, and the swelling may go unnoticed, as the ovaries lie deep within the pelvic cavity.  Blood tests, ultrasound and viewing the ovaries through a scope are often done to diagnose; surgery to remove the ovaries and chemotherapy are the usual treatments.

Among strategies to protect against ovarian cancer are a yearly pelvic exam, immediate reporting of any irregular vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain to the doctor and eating a low-fat diet. New methods of screening to detect ovarian cancer earlier are an active area of research.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Leg pain
  • Sudden loss or gain in weight
  • Leg swelling
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