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Ovarian Cancer - Symptoms and Statistics

Updated on May 1, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Ovaries and Uterus

Ovarian Cancer Statistics

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, and it causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer, yet the cause is unknown. Each year more than 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 15,000 die of the disease. The mortality rates for ovarian cancer have not improved in thirty years.

Women's ovaries are located on each side of the uterus, and they are about the size of an almond. They produce eggs in addition to the hormones; estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. As ovaries are located in the middle of the abdomen symptoms in the early stages of this disease are not very pronounced and very commonly overlooked.

3 Types of Ovarian Cancer

  • Cancer that begins in the cells on the outside of the ovaries, which is the most common type.
  • Cancer that begins in the egg-producing cells are called germ cell tumors and tend to occur in younger women.
  • Cancer found in the hormone-producing cells, which are called stromal tumors, actually begin in the ovarian tissue that produces the hormones.

Female Productive System



Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloated feeling
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

Other ovarian cancer symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes

Obviously many of these symptoms could be caused for other reasons, but if these symptoms don’t resolve with some simple treatment then it is time to see you doctor. If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, definitely talk to your doctor about your possible risk of ovarian cancer. There are genetic blood tests available that may help determine your risk.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms - Recognizing Ovarian Cancer Signs

Possible Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer:

Inherited gene mutation - This is the BRAC1 and BRAC2 blood tests that are used for women in families that have had multiple cases of cancer. There is also a test for colorectal cancer called HNPCC which actually covers the lining of the uterus, colon and the stomach.

Family History of Ovarian Cancer – If you have family members that have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer you are at an increased risk.

A Previous Cancer Diagnosis – Your risk of ovarian cancer is higher if you have been diagnosed with cancer of the breast, colon, rectum or uterus.

Increasing Age – While ovarian cancer typically develops after menopause, it can happen at any age.

Undesired infertility.

Never Having Been Pregnant – This puts you at an increased risk.

Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause – Some studies show you at higher risk but the studies are not consistent.

The facts are all women are at risk to some degree and symptoms are very vague at first but do increase over time. As with any cancer early detection increases survival rates. A PAP test will not reveal ovarian cancer.

How do they diagnosis ovarian cancer?

There is no specific screening test for ovarian cancer. The following tests are the path to detection.

Pap Exam: Every woman over the age of 18 ought to have and annual vaginal exam and women over the age of 35 should have an annual rectovaginal exam.

Transvaginal Sonography: This is an ultrasound test with a small instrument placed in the vagina which is done for women that have a high risk for ovarian cancer or one that had an abnormal pelvic exam.

CA-125 Test: This is a blood test that determines if the level of CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells has increased in the blood of a woman at high risk or with an abnormal pelvic exam. This is an important test but it is not always 100% accurate, as there are some other diseases that can cause this increase in the blood.

If any if these tests are positive a woman should consult with a gynecologic oncologist who will probably do a CAT scan and X-rays. While these tests are helpful the only sure way to diagnosis ovarian cancer is with a biopsy. Sometimes if the surgeon is doing a biopsy and finds cancer he will immediately begin surgery to remove one or both ovaries along with the fallopian tube.

Ovarian Cancer Surgery -- Sloan-Kettering

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

The results of the surgery are used to stage the ovarian cancer. A CAT scan, an MRI or a PET scan may be used to determine whether the cancer has spread in the abdomen. Staging is the next step which will determine the prognosis of the patient and treatment options.

  • Stage I. Ovarian cancer is confined to one or both ovaries.
  • Stage II. Ovarian cancer has spread to other locations in the pelvis, such as the uterus or fallopian tubes.
  • Stage III. Ovarian cancer has spread beyond the pelvis or to the lymph nodes within the abdomen.
  • Stage IV. Ovarian cancer has spread to organs beyond the abdomen, such as the liver or the lungs.

Treatment Options

Quite often if a woman has ovarian cancer then they will have a total hysterectomy.

Other treatments include radiation which may be external or internal. Internal radiation uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. Again the method used depends on the stage of the cancer.

This also holds true for chemotherapy.

Biological therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer by using substances made by the body or in a laboratory to boost, direct or restore the body’s natural defense against cancer. This is also known as biotherapy or immunotherapy.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.

There are numerous clinical trials being held all the time, so a patient may want to choose that as a treatment option.

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance: Interview with Kathy Bates

In Conclusion

Obviously we need much more research on ovarian cancer to have a specific test available for diagnosis. Secondly, we need to let women know what the symptoms are for ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is more deadly than breast cancer, but women have not been adequately educated as to the symptoms as compared to breast cancer. As in all cancers early detection is the key to survival.

The copyright to this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Doris, Your story is horrible between the migraines and 2 major surgeries. I use to have migraines and they stopped, but I did have a total hysterectomy. I thought the doctor was only going to remove 1 ovary. but when he got in there he removed everything. I was glad.

    I had a good friend that died from ovarian cancer, and she told me she ignored some mild symptoms. She ignored the mild symptIoms. I wish every woman would pay more attention to their bodies. I appreciate you sharing your story.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    2 weeks ago from Beautiful South

    Pamela, I happened to see your update on this article, which I had missed in previous years. I have always been on the watch for ovarian cancer because it's terrifying. My family has a history of colon cancer, so my abdominal area usually has a very good going over.

    Something that ticks me off royally: I had a hysterectomy in 1993, and the doctor said it would be a "total" so I didn't ask him about anything else. Imagine my surprise when after the surgery, he said that he'd left my ovaries because they were healthy. He didn't give me any choice, although he knew that I had suffered for years from migraine headaches and took for granted he would remove them. It was seven more years before the ovaries gave out, and seven more years of debilitating migraines. Once the useless (to me) things died I never suffered another migraine. I vowed never to have another male gynecologist again.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Adriean, Yes, those are just a few of the symptoms I wrote about, and the treatments do vary as I explained. Thanks for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    onlinemom, Thanks for your comment. I will check out your article also.

  • onlinemom1963 profile image


    7 years ago from Makati City

    It is indeed very important for us women to increase our awareness with this matter. Thank you for this very informative hub. I actually published a hub related to ovarian cancer:

    Thank you!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Support Med, Yes, I think the symptoms aren't well known and women should know the symptoms for safety. Thanks for your comment.

  • Support Med. profile image

    Support Med. 

    8 years ago from Michigan

    Thanks for sharing this info. Good to know the possible symptoms ahead of time. v/r

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    mdlawyer, I'm glad you found the hub useful. Thanks for your comments.

  • mdlawyer profile image


    8 years ago

    Very useful medical tips on gynaecology,Pamela99. VOTED UP! RATED AWESOME AND USEFUL!!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    sunchild, Thanks you so much for your comments.

  • sunchild28 profile image


    8 years ago from Nigeria

    Great information which is bookmarked and well equipped with information which is very useful.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hello, I am glad you appreciated the hub and I appreciate your comments.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    An excellent hub, very detailed and well worded. Thank you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    capcrunch, Cancer is such an awful disease. I hope to make women more aware of any unusual symptoms in their body just in case. Sorry for the loss of your friend; a 30 year old is way too young to die. Thanks for your comments.

    Bethany, I appreciate your comments.

    coffeesnob, All women should get the check-ups like you. Peace of mind is priceless. Thank you for your comments.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I hate the word Cancer. I try to make sure I get the check-ups. the peace of mind is worth the effort. Nice hub and well done! Voted Up and useful

  • profile image

    Bethany Culpepper 

    8 years ago

    Thank you so much for writing on this subject. Posting on FB - It's something we all need to think about.

  • capncrunch profile image


    8 years ago from New Orleans

    Hello Pamela,

    Women have so many types of cancer that attack them. I lost a very close friend to a rare cancer. I thought she was much too young being 30. It can happen to anyone. I appreciate your thoughtful Hub! Great Article!!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    ne-life, Thank you for your comment.

  • One-life1 profile image

    Ar Az 

    8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

    Excellent information, great hub. voting up

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Cardisa, It sounds like you came out okay on the test thank goodness. I appreciate you comments.

  • Cardisa profile image

    Carolee Samuda 

    8 years ago from Jamaica

    Hi Pamela, this brings back memories of when I had to have a pelvic clearance. I was at risk for cancer in my reproductive organs.

    This information is great.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    penlady, I agree that young woman need this information and I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

  • penlady profile image


    8 years ago from Sacramento, CA

    This is excellent information for women of all ages. Even if you're in your 20s, a woman needs this information, for their mothers could have ovarian cancer.

    This information is well researched. You did a wonderful job, Pamela.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Drpastorcarlotta, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you so much for your comments. God Bless you also.

    Hanna, It is just facts to be aware of in case but you hopefully will never have that concern. Thanks for the comment.

    always exploring, I agree with you and appreciate your comments.

    Beverly, I'm glad you found the information useful and I appreciate your comments.

  • Beverly Stevens profile image

    Beverly Stevens 

    8 years ago from College Station

    Great information, Pamela. Thanks for sharing.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    8 years ago from Southern Illinois

    Pamela, This is such an important hub..Ovarian cancer is scary..Mainly because it's detected late. I didn't know about Kathy Bates. Thank you for sharing with us.


  • HealthyHanna profile image


    8 years ago from Utah

    This is something I don't want to think about. You have done a very good job of making me think about it anyway. I guess I should thank you. :)

  • drpastorcarlotta profile image

    Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles 

    8 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

    As always your watching out for us! God Bless you always! Voted-Up and I received a lot of info from your Hub and videos.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Ingenira, I think that is exactly the problem which is why I would encourage anyone who has these symptoms over a period of time to see there doctor. Thanks for your comment.

  • Ingenira profile image


    8 years ago

    Well written hub, Pamela.

    Ovarian cancer is hard for woman to feel suspicious enough to see a doctor since its symptoms are similar to menstrual cramps, and ovarian cysts. Without a proper scanning, it's hard to tell. That's my personal opinion.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    cwarden, I think that is the most important point of this hub, to be informed. Thanks for your comments.

  • cwarden profile image


    8 years ago from USA

    What an excellent hub. Even though the symptoms might be common to many different conditions - I'm glad to know what they are. Thank you for this very important information.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    electricsky, That was my goal and I really appreciate your comments.

  • electricsky profile image


    8 years ago from North Georgia

    Thanks for reminding us to get preventive checkups and pap smears. Don't forget mammograms are a good idea for women of all ages, too.

    I think this is a helpful article for us.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Prasetio, I agree that all women should know the signs just in case. Thanks you for your comments. Love and Peace.

    Health Talk, That was my purpose in writing this hub. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Health Talk profile image

    Health Talk 

    8 years ago from World

    Yeah this is one of the most haunting demon for women. Thanks for sharing such informative hub. it will be very great for all women to know about this demon from head to toe for future reference.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    This is one of type of cancer which haunted each woman. I wish many women read this information. Excellent and very well written. I'll show this to my sister. She should know about this cancer. Well done, Pamela. Rated up. Have a nice weekend!


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Simone, It is scary but knowing the symptoms may save your life. Thanks for the comment.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    Yikes. This is really scary. I wish this didn't exist... but I suppose it's a good thing to know the symptoms.


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