Ovarian CancerOvarian cancer affects the ovaries, the female reproductive glands that produce eggs. This cancer can be difficult to detect and treat because it is not usually diagnosed until its advanced stages.
Ovarian Cancer Causes
Similar to many other types of cancer, what causes ovarian cancer is unknown. However, certain factors can increase a woman’s risk for developing the condition.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- A history of ovarian cancer among other women in a family
- An inherited gene mutation in breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2)
- An Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish background
- Having had breast, uterine or colorectal cancer
- Having had endometriosis
- Having never been pregnant
- Being an older age
- Having Lynch syndrome, a type of colorectal cancer
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
In the early stages of ovarian cancer, symptoms are often not present. Signs of the condition may appear once the cancer has grown and spread throughout the abdomen.
Women with advanced ovarian cancer may experience:
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina between periods or after menopause
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- A lump or growth in the abdomen
- Pain, bloating or discomfort in the abdomen and pelvis
- Frequent urination or urinary urgency
- Changes in eating habits
Unfortunately, there are no screening tests for ovarian cancer, which makes early detection difficult. Women are encouraged to schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider if they experience any of these symptoms for more than two to three weeks.
Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer
To diagnose ovarian cancer, a gynecologist will usually perform a physical exam, a pelvic exam and review of a patient’s medical history.
One or more of the following tests may also be performed:
- A pelvic ultrasound
- Blood tests
- Genetic testing
- Imaging tests
Treatments for Ovarian Cancer
At Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute, our gynecologic oncologists understand the intricacies of ovarian cancer and develop individualized treatment plans for each patient, regardless of the severity of the condition.
Treatment options may include a combination of:
- Various types of chemotherapy, including neoadjuvant chemotherapy and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)
- Surgery to remove ovaries and cancerous cells on other nearby organs
In addition, ovarian cancer patients treated at TGH may be eligible for clinical trials and have access to state-of-the-art treatments.