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Ovarian Cancer

  • What is Ovarian Cancer?

    Ovarian cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in the ovary. The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system where the eggs are produced. Most ovarian cancers develop on the surface of the ovary.

    There are 3 main types of ovarian cancer:

    • Epithelial tumours develop on the epithelium (surface) of the ovary and are the most common type
    • Germ cell tumours occur in the cells that produce the eggs and can develop in younger women
    • Stromal tumours develop in the oestrogen and progesterone-producing tissues of the ovary. Oestrogen and progesterone are the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle
  • You may be at risk of developing ovarian cancer if you:

    • had your first pregnancy at an older age or have never been pregnant
    • had your menopause at a late age
    • have a family member with ovarian cancer (especially if they have the BRCA gene)
    • have endometriosis, a condition where the endometrium tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (womb) grows outside the uterus
    • have had breast cancer
    • started menstruating at a young age
    • used hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years
    • were overweight in early adulthood
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

    • Abdominal swelling and discomfort (pressure, fullness or bloating)
    • Changes in bowel habits, eg. constipation
    • Loss of appetite or weight loss
    • Lower back pain
    • Pain during sexual intercourse
    • Persistent indigestion or nausea
    • Frequent need to urinate
  • Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy:

    • Surgery removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes (through which eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus), uterus and affected lymph nodes
    • Chemotherapy destroys any remaining cancer cells after surgery
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