About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer develops when cancerous cells develop either within the ovaries or on the surface of the ovaries—these cells can rapidly spread to other parts of the abdomen. The cause of ovarian cancer is not known. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S. More than half of all women diagnosed are diagnosed in the advanced stage of the disease. 

Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

  • Women who have never become pregnant
  • Women with a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate or colon cancer
  • Women of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish  heritage

Genetic counseling and testing are an option for women who may believe they are at high risk of getting ovarian cancer.  Certain gene mutations are associated with a markedly increased risk of ovarian cancer, including mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with an ovarian cancer risk as high as 40 percent, and which are also associated with a risk of breast cancer as high as 60 percent or more.  Women who fall into one of the above categories should undergo careful evaluation, and may be candidates for strategies to screen for ovarian cancer or for medical or surgical strategies to prevent the disease.

Although ovarian cancer symptoms may not develop until advanced stages, they many include:

  • Sense of pelvic heaviness
  • Abdominal discomfort or bloating
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Changes in urination
  • Pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse

Be sure to notify your physician if you experience any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks.

Ovarian Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

Ovarian cancer screening can be difficult. Routine pelvic examinations performed by your doctor may find a pelvic or abdominal mass which may require more tests to determine if ovarian cancer is present. Tests may include a variety of pathology testing, including various blood tests, CA125 – a genetic marker for ovarian cancer, pregnancy testing or a urinalysis. Ovarian cancer screening may also include an X-rays of the bowels, pelvic and/or an abdominal CT scan or ultrasound.

If a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is made, your physician will then determine if the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries or to other parts of the body.  Additional tests, including surgery, may be required for your physician to determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body.  Each cancer type has its own classification system.

Multispecialty Team

NorthShore University HealthSystem physicians and the team at the Kellogg Cancer Center work collaboratively and are dedicated to putting patients and families at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. Your team may include your medical oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, pathologist, nutritionist, interventional radiologist, and researchers focused on you. This meeting of the minds provides each patient with an individualized care plan to create the path for the most optimal outcome. Our approach emphasizes open communication, collaborating with each other personally and through one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country.

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