Ovarian Cancer (Cancer of the Ovaries)

  • Medical Author: Andrew Green, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Quick GuideOvarian Cancer Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Stages, Treatments and Risks

Ovarian Cancer Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Stages, Treatments and Risks

What are ovarian cancer symptoms and signs?

Screening tests are used to test a healthy population in an attempt to diagnose a disease at an early stage. Unfortunately, there are no good screening tests for ovarian cancer, despite extensive ongoing research. Imaging (ultrasound, X-rays, and CT scans), and blood tests should not be used as a screen, as they are inaccurate and lead many women to surgery who do not need it (they are false positive tests).

Diagnosis of ovarian cancer is often suspected based on symptoms and physical exam, and these are followed by imaging. The signs and symptoms, when present, are very vague. These can include fatigue, getting full quickly (early satiety), abdominal swelling, clothes suddenly not fitting, leg swelling, changes in bowel habits, changes in bladder habits, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. As mentioned above, these symptoms can be very subtle and vague, as well as very common. This only makes diagnosing the disease that much more difficult. Some studies suggest that the average patient with ovarian cancer sees up to three different doctors prior to obtaining a definitive diagnosis. Often, it is the persistence of the patient that leads to a diagnosis. OLMPT and some benign tumors can present with similar symptoms. In addition, they are often seen with very large masses in the ovary. Often these masses are large enough to cause bloating, abdominal distension, constipation, and changes in bladder habits.

In the more uncommon ovarian types (stromal and germ cell tumors), symptoms are similar. Sometimes, granulosa cell tumors can occur with severe pain and blood in the belly from a ruptured tumor. These can often be confused with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, as they tend to be found in women of reproductive age.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2016
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