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Ovarian Cancer 101

Before we begin: Ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, and peritoneal cancer are closely related and are treated the same way. The term “ovarian cancer” is often used to describe cancers that begin in the cells in the ovary, fallopian tube, or peritoneum. Cancer that forms in any of these organs is referred to as ovarian cancer and is treated nearly identically. When we talk about "ovarian cancer" we are including Fallopian tube and peritoneal cancers. 

On this page you will learn about symptoms of ovarian cancer, diagnosis, and treatment options. We hope this information will help you prepare for a discussion with your gynecologist or a Gynecologic Oncologist.

What is Ovarian Cancer: Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries (women’s reproductive glands that produce eggs or ova). Cancer that spreads to the ovaries but originates at another site is not considered ovarian cancer. Ovarian tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Although abnormal, cells of benign tumors do not metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). Malignant cancer cells in the ovaries can metastasize in two ways: directly to other organs in the pelvis and abdomen (the more common way), through the bloodstream or lymph nodes to other parts of the body.


Anyone with ovaries (including those assigned female at birth) is at risk for ovarian cancer, and the risk increases with age. Most ovarian cancers are found in those who are going through or who have gone through menopause—the time of life when your menstrual periods stop.

What causes Ovarian Cancer: While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, some theories exist: Genetic errors may occur because of damage from the normal monthly release of an egg. Increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may also stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.

How do I know if I have Ovarian Cancer: Since there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, knowledge is power! Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer and reporting them to your doctor if those symptoms are persistent (for more than two weeks in any month) is the first step. Think of the acronym B.E.A.T.: 

pronouncing gynecologic
female gynecologic system
BEAT ovarian cancer symptoms

Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Screening

If one or more of these symptoms or risk factors is true for you,

it does not mean you have or will necessarily get ovarian cancer.


Please report all your symptoms and risk factors to a doctor, preferably a gynecologist.

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