Ovarian cancer is a growth of cells that forms in the ovaries. The cells multiply quickly and can invade and destroy healthy body tissue.
The female reproductive system contains two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Ovarian cancer treatment usually involves surgery and chemotherapy.
When ovarian cancer first develops, it might not cause any noticeable symptoms. When this cancer symptoms happen, they’re usually attributed to other, more common conditions.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Quickly feeling full when eating
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Back pain
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- A frequent need to urinate
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
It’s not clear what causes this cancer, though doctors have identified things that can increase the risk of the disease.
Doctors know that ovarian cancer begins when cells in or near the ovaries develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell the cell what to do. The changes tell the cells to grow and multiply quickly, creating a mass (tumor) of cancer cells. The cancer cells continue living when healthy cells would die. They can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumor to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Types of ovarian cancer
The type of cell where the cancer begins determines the type of ovarian cancer you have and helps your doctor determine which treatments are best for you.