Glossary of Ovarian Cancer Terms

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2021


Adjuvant therapy

Additional cancer treatment given after the initial treatment. This helps lower the risk that the cancer will come back. This therapy can include treatments like hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.1


Loss of hair, either some or all, as a result of radiation or chemotherapy.2


A low red blood cell count. Anemia is a common side effect of cancer treatment. It can cause fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.1


Drug that controls or prevents nausea and vomiting.1,2


A build-up of fluid in the abdomen that can cause swelling. This can be caused by cancer, as well as by some noncancerous (benign) conditions.1,2



Not cancerous.1


A measurable sign of an event or substance in the body.1


A surgery that removes tissue so it can be examined to determine if cancer is present.2



A blood protein that can be measured. It is a tumor marker in ovarian cancer often used to monitor how treatment is working or whether the cancer has returned.1,2


This is an acronym for complementary or alternative medicine. Complementary medicine is used in addition to conventional medical treatments. Alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medical treatments. Both can include acupuncture, dietary supplements, yoga, prayer, meditation, herbal medicine, massage, and more.1


A disease that occurs when abnormal cells start to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way. These cells can invade nearby tissues and spread via the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other areas of the body.1


Substances known to cause and/or promote the growth of cancer.2


A cancerous tumor that starts in the skin or tissues lining internal organs.1

CAT or CT Scan

This is a series of images of areas in the body from various angles. The pictures are created by a computer that is linked to an X-ray machine. It can also be called a computerized axial tomography scan.1


Treatment of cancer by chemicals/drugs that destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing.2

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A series of tests that includes red and white blood cell counts, as well as platelet counts. It measures hemoglobin and cell volume.2

Cytoreductive surgery

A type of surgery that aims to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible. There are 2 types: optimal and suboptimal. Optimal cytoreduction means there are no cancerous tissue deposits bigger than 1 centimeter remaining in the body. Suboptimal cytoreduction means there are cancerous tissue deposits larger than 1 centimeter left in the body. This is also called debulking surgery.1



Swelling due to fluid build-up in the tissues.2


A kind of tissue that lines the skin and hollow organs.2

Estrogen receptor test

This is a test done during the biopsy to determine whether the cancer’s growth depends on estrogen.2


Gynecologic oncologist

A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive system.1,2



A doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders.1,2

Hormone therapy

Treatment that removes female hormones or blocks their action to stop ovarian cancer cells from getting or using the hormones they might need to grow. For conditions like menopause, hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels.1


Surgical removal of the uterus. When the uterus and cervix are removed, it is called a total hysterectomy. If only the uterus is removed, it is a partial hysterectomy.1,2



Treatment to strengthen or restore the ability of the immune system to fight disease.1

Induction therapy

Initial treatment used to reduce ovarian cancer. Also called first-line therapy or primary therapy/treatment.1


Situated within or administered through the peritoneum. The peritoneum is the membrane lining the abdominal cavity.2


Low malignant potential (LMP) tumor

This is when cells that may turn into cancer are found in the tissue covering the ovary. Also called ovarian borderline malignant tumor.1

Lymph node

A mass of lymphatic tissue surrounded by connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (fluid that carries cells that fight disease), store white blood cells, and help the immune system.1

Lynch syndrome

An inherited disorder that is also called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer. This increases the risk of not only colon cancer, but also ovarian and uterine cancer.1



A term used to describe a cancerous tumor.2


The spread of cancer from 1 part of the body to another.2


Also called magnetic resonance imaging. Radio waves and a strong magnet linked to a computer create detailed pictures of areas in the body. These pictures can illustrate normal and diseased tissue.1


Neoadjuvant therapy

A form of treatment used before the main treatment. In ovarian cancer, this may refer to chemotherapy being used before a person has surgery.1


A very low number of a kind of white blood cell. This can lead to an increased risk of infection.1



Surgical removal of 1 or both ovaries.1



The likely outcome or course of a disease.1

Progression-free survival

The amount of time during and after treatment where a person lives with a disease but the disease does not get worse.1


Radiation therapy

Treatment with high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink a tumor.1


When the signs and symptoms of cancer have reduced or disappeared in response to treatment. This is not necessarily a cure. Even in complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer are gone, but cancer might still be in the body, undetectable.1



Surgical removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.1


Stages describe how far a cancer has progressed, based on the size of the tumor and where/whether it has spread.2



Very low amount of platelets in the blood. This can be caused by cancer treatments or cancer itself and can cause bruising and excessive bleeding.1

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