Risk Factors | Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Additional Patient Support

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. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S.

The experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

As part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, NorthShore provides our patients even greater access to a broad network of experts. NorthShore and Mayo specialists share expertise and collaborate on complex disease diagnoses and treatments. Patients benefit from enhanced care at NorthShore, without the need to travel outside the region.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

The cause of ovarian cancer is not known. 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.

NorthShore is the first in the nation to provide our patients and their family members with Health Heritage, a secure tool that helps individuals create a complete family health history and personalized risk reports.

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 and 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, CA-125 – 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. More than half of all women diagnosed are diagnosed in the advanced stage of the disease.

Personalized Ovarian Cancer Treatment

When ovarian cancer is detected or suspected, surgery is usually the recommended treatment. Studies have shown that surgery performed by a specialist in gynecologic oncology results in a higher rate of cure. Chemotherapy is used after surgery to treat any residual disease and can also be used to treat women who have a recurrence. NorthShore offers a full range of surgical options and expertise including minimally invasive and robotic surgery.

Women with a high risk of ovarian cancer can talk to their doctor about having their ovaries removed, even if they do not have any symptoms and all testing is negative for ovarian cancer. This risk reducing procedure is called a prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Women with a positive test for BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations may wish to explore this option with their physician.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. For ovarian cancer, your team may include your medical oncologistsurgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, geneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for each patient.

Patients are at the center of this multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary team at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.