Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the United States, and anyone with ovaries can develop ovarian cancer.1 Regardless, it can be hard to know what to expect. Whether you've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, or know someone who has, here's a guide to the basics of ovarian cancer.

What is ovarian cancer?

When cancer forms in the ovaries it is called ovarian cancer. The ovaries are reproductive glands in women where eggs form. Research shows that many ovarian cancers may start in the far end of the fallopian tubes. There are three primary types of ovarian cancer tumors; epithelial tumors, germ cell tumors, and stromal tumors.1

How common is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that about 21,700 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020. The ACS also estimates that about 13,900 women will die from the disease in 2020.1

What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?

Anyone with ovaries can develop ovarian cancer. Doctors do not know exactly who will develop ovarian cancer and who will not. However, they do know that some risk factors may increase a person’s chance of developing the condition, such as family history, genetic mutations, age, obesity, and reproductive history.2

What are ovarian cancer prognosis and survival rates?

Prognosis is the likely outcome or the course of a given disease. Survival rates are how long someone with your diagnosis will live, on average, based on national statistics. These statistics can vary depending on your ovarian cancer type and disease spread. It is important to remember that while statistics reflect trends of an overall group of people with a condition, they do not predict your unique situation and what you may experience.

What are the signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Although early-stage ovarian cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms, certain symptoms can appear as the disease progresses. The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or getting full quickly after eating very little, and urinary symptoms.3

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

An ovarian cancer diagnosis can involve receiving a pelvic exam, imaging tests, blood tests, genetics tests, and undergoing surgery and a biopsy. If your doctor will not order certain tests despite the symptoms you are having, see another doctor for a second opinion.

Who treats ovarian cancer?

Even if your primary care doctor or your gynecologist thinks you have or has diagnosed you with ovarian cancer, you will likely need care from specialists. An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in cancer. There are a variety of specialties within oncology such as gynecologic oncologists and radiation oncologists.

How is ovarian cancer treated?

Treatment for ovarian cancer can involve many different approaches and depend on your ovarian cancer type and stage, overall health, genetic mutations, and treatment preferences. Treatment can be different for each person since it is tailored to each person and their situation.

What is life like with ovarian cancer?

Living with a condition like ovarian cancer means learning to live with uncertainty, change, and accepting help when you need it. Symptoms, side effects, and worries that your cancer may come back can all impact your quality of life.

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