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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Ovarian cancer happens when cells that are not normal grow in one or both of your ovariescamera.gif. The ovaries are two small glands, located on either side of your uterus. They produce female sex hormones and store and release eggs (ova).

Treatments for ovarian cancer are more successful when the cancer is found early. But most of the time, cancer has already spread by the time it is found.

This topic is about epithelial ovarian cancer. This is cancer that grows in the tissue covering the ovaries. It is the most common type of ovarian cancer and usually occurs in women who are past menopause.

Experts don't know exactly what causes ovarian cancer. But they do know that DNA changes play a role in many cancers.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Recent, frequent bloating.
  • Pain in the belly or pelvis.
  • Trouble eating, or feeling full quickly.
  • Urinary problems, such as an urgent need to urinate or urinating more often than usual.

These symptoms may be common in women who don't have ovarian cancer. But if these symptoms are new for you, and they happen almost daily for 2 to 3 weeks, you should see a doctor.

Sometimes the doctor may feel a lump in or on an ovary during a routine pelvic exam. Often a lump may be seen during an ultrasound. Most lumps aren't cancer.

If your doctor thinks you may have ovarian cancer, you may have a blood test called CA-125 (cancer antigen 125). Too much CA-125 in your blood can be a sign of ovarian cancer. But too much CA-125 in the blood can be caused by many things, such as the menstrual cycle, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

The only way to know for sure that a woman has ovarian cancer is with biopsies taken during surgery. Tissue samples will be sent to a lab to see if they contain cancer.

Surgery is the main treatment. The doctor will remove any tumors that he or she can see. This usually means taking out one or both ovaries. It may also mean taking out the fallopian tubes and uterus. Chemotherapy is often part of treatment. It may be given before and after surgery.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Talking with other women who are going through the same thing may help. Your doctor or your local branch of the American Cancer Society can help you find a support group.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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