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Ovarian cancer

Woman with hair growing back after cancer treatment Ovarian cancer happens when abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way in and around your ovaries and fallopian tubes, eventually forming a cancerous (malignant) growth (tumour).

Ovarian cancer affects 1.6 out of every 100 women. It is more common after you've been through menopause, and is less likely when you're still having periods.

Most of the time, there is no clear cause for ovarian cancer, but sometimes it runs in families.

There are a few things that we know can increase your chance of getting ovarian cancer. These include:

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

It can be difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer early, as the symptoms can be similar to other more common and less serious conditions. Ovarian cancer symptoms may include:

If you have any of these symptoms for no reason, or you get these symptoms regularly (especially more than 12 times a month) see your GP.

Diagnosing ovarian cancer

Your doctor will do a pelvic examination. To do this, they will insert two lubricated gloved fingers into your vagina, then press gently on the outside of your lower tummy with their other hand. This lets them feel your uterus, ovaries and other pelvic organs. They may arrange blood tests including one to measure your levels of a protein called CA-125 levels, as this can increase with ovarian cancer. They may also arrange for you to have an ultrasound.

If your doctor is concerned, they may refer you to a hospital specialist who may do some other tests such as a CT scan to check for any abnormalities.

Treating ovarian cancer

If the tests show you have ovarian cancer, treatment will usually involve surgery and chemotherapy.

Screening for ovarian cancer

For most women with no symptoms, screening tests have not been found to be useful.

If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer or carry a genetic abnormality called BRCA1 or BRCA2, talk to your doctor about screening options.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.


See also:

Inherited cancer & BRCA genes

Page reference: 279661

Review key: HIOCV-16002