Ovarian Epithelial Cancer

If you or a loved one is facing ovarian cancer, it's most likely ovarian epithelial cancer. This is a serious cancer that is usually found at a later stage. This makes it difficult to treat. But treatment for even advanced ovarian cancer has come a long way. And our highly skilled gynecologic oncologist doctors offer the latest treatment options for ovarian epithelial cancer. 

You won't find more caring and skilled experts than at UVA Health, home to Virginia's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

What Is Ovarian Epithelial Cancer?

Ovarian epithelial cancer forms in the tissues of the ovary. This is one of a pair of female reproductive glands. This is where the ova, or eggs, are formed. Most ovarian cancers are either:

  • Ovarian epithelial carcinomas: These cancers begin in the cells on the surface of the ovary. It's most common in women who've gone through menopause.
  • Malignant germ cell tumors: This rare type of cancer begins in egg cells. Most often it affects teens or young women. But it can happen to women in their 60s.

At UVA Health, our gynecologic oncologists are experienced in treating all types of ovarian cancers at all stages. We have treatment options no matter how advanced the ovarian epithelial cancer is.

A Rare Disease with Few Symptoms

Charles Landen, MD, and Susan Modesitt, MD, discuss the ovarian cancer treatments and experience offered at UVA. View ovarian cancer transcript.

Risk

Factors that increase your chance for ovarian cancer include:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer, especially in mother, sister or daughter
  • Age: 50 or older
  • Menstrual history: first period before age 12, no childbirth or first childbirth after age 30, and late menopause
  • Personal history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer
    ovarian tumor illustration
    Cancerous Mass in the Left Ovary Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Certain gene mutations, including BRCA1, BRCA2

Symptoms

Early ovarian cancer may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, ovarian cancer is often advanced. Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include the following:

  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, or constipation

These symptoms also may be caused by other conditions and not by ovarian cancer. If the symptoms get worse or do not go away on their own, check with your doctor so that any problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. When found in its early stages, ovarian epithelial cancer can often be cured.

Diagnosis

Tests may include:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Pelvic Exam, your doctor will use her gloved finger to check your:
    • Uterus
    • Vagina
    • Ovaries
    • Fallopian tubes
    • Bladder
    • Rectum
  • Diagnostic Tests
    • Ultrasound
    • Biopsy of tissue or cells
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
    • Lower gastrointestinal (GI) series or barium enema
    • CA-125 assay
    • OVA1 test

Treatment

Treatment depends on the extent of the cancer and your general health:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy 

The more advanced the tumor at diagnosis, the poorer the prognosis. Unfortunately, 75% of all epithelial tumors are stage 3 or 4 at the time of diagnosis. The overall five-year survival rate is about 50%.

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing ovarian cancer because the cause is unknown. Symptoms also are not present in the early stages. All women should have regular physical exams including vaginal exams and palpation of the ovaries.

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.