What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian epithelial cancer—the most common ovarian cancer—is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissue covering the ovary.
Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissue covering the ovary. The ovaries, which produce eggs, are positioned on each side of the uterus. Ovaries are the main source of a woman's female hormones—estrogen and progesterone.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
In early stages, there may be no symptoms for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer can have subtle symptoms which can be easily confused with other conditions. If you have symptoms of ovarian cancer or cysts that persist and cannot be explained by other reasons, report them to your doctor.
Assessing Your Risk
There are no standard screening tests for an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Family history can be important. Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer are at an increased risk of getting the disease. Women with an increased risk of ovarian cancer may consider surgery (removal of the ovaries) to prevent it.
Assessing your risk »
Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer
Primary treatment is surgery to remove the cancer (through total hysterectomy to remove the uterus and cervix) as well as surrounding tissue to which the cancer has spread (debulking). Hysterectomies are almost always performed using robotic-assisted surgery, which is minimally invasive. Following surgery, chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs), such as carboplatin and paclitaxel, are given intravenously.
Christina S. Chu, MD, specializes in gynecologic surgery and clinical trials.
Surgeons who specialize in gynecologic cancers, such as Cynthia Bergman, MD, FACOG, Christina S. Chu, MD, Stephanie King, MD, Gina Mantia-Smaldone, MD, or Fox Chase's Chief of Gynecologic Oncology Stephen Rubin, MD, may perform a minimally invasive procedure (da Vinci® robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery) to measure the effectiveness of the current treatment and to determine whether you need additional treatment. This procedure involves tiny incisions in the abdomen, which reduces possible complications and shortens the recovery time.
Open surgery remains the best option for most women with ovarian cancer.
Chemotherapy and Intraperitoneal Therapy
Intraperitoneal therapy (delivering drugs through a catheter into the abdominal cavity) is used for limited, or isolated, disease. In contrast, chemotherapy uses the bloodstream to deliver drugs to the tumor.
Advanced Ovarian Disease
If the cancer is advanced and has spread to other organs, surgeons team up with other specialists (gastrointestinal, urologic and liver) who can reconstruct the remaining organs so you may maintain function.
For women with ovarian cancer that has recurred after initial treatment, drugs such as topotecan, doxorubicin, etoposide, gemcitabine and cyclophosphamide may be used. These drugs may be given orally or intravenously.
Ovarian cancer tends to spread throughout the abdominal cavity. Radiation therapy is not usually an effective treatment on its own; however, it may be used to alleviate pain and weakness resulting from the cancer.
Fox Chase physicians have expertise using clinical trials with newer drugs, especially targeted agents, in the treatment of ovarian cancer (both primary and recurrence).
For patients who want to preserve the ability to have children, it is sometimes possible to remove only one affected ovary and its adjoining fallopian tube. If the cancer has spread beyond one ovary, however, debulking usually requires removal of both ovaries and their adjoining fallopian tubes, the uterus and pelvic lymph nodes. These tissues will be examined to find out whether the cancer has spread and whether additional therapy will be needed.
Making a Difference
As survivors of ovarian cancer, April Donahue and Karen Mason wanted to make a difference on the future of cancer research.
Find out how Fox Chase scientists took them up on their offer.
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Women's Cancer Center
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Your Nurse Navigator will be there to assist you at every step along the way, from the first call through follow-up visits.Patients who come to the Center for ovarian cancer treatment are offered individualized, compassionate care with a focus on wellness, stress reduction and quality of life and access to our full scope of research opportunities, with a personal guide to help the patient navigate the details.
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Cancer diagnosis information for patients from the College of American Pathologists