Ovarian Cancer Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Miller, MBChB

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Ovarian cancer is one of the lesser-known forms of cancer and can be asymptomatic at first, or present with non-specific symptoms. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 21,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021.

Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the ovaries grow and divide out of control. The ovaries are responsible for producing an ova (egg) on a roughly monthly basis throughout a person’s childbearing years and are responsible for producing the reproductive hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Women usually have two ovaries, which are situated in the pelvis close to the fallopian tubes and uterus.

Ovarian cancer tends to occur more often in older women, with about half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each being over the age of 63. However, ovarian cancer does also occur in young women, particularly where there’s a family history of similar cancers.

If the cancer is detected early, the long-term outlook is very good. Unfortunately, the cancer is often not detected until it spreads to other organs. At that point, the cancer is more difficult to treat and is often fatal.