5 Things To Know About Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer, but it the most deadly of them. In 2013, an estimated 22,240 women in the US will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. An estimated 14,030 women will die from ovarian cancer this year. (Incidence/mortality data from the American Cancer Society)


There is no screening approved for ovarian cancer. To date, no screening tests for ovarian cancer (such as the CA 125 blood test, or a transvaginal ultrasound) have been shown to decrease the death rate from the disease. Research to find an effective screening method is ongoing.


The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and can include

  • Abdominal or pelvic discomfort or pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, nausea, indigestion, or feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Urinary frequency or urgency

Learn more about the symptoms to be aware of here.


Certain women are at higher risk for development of ovarian cancer. These are factors which increase one’s risk for the disease:

  • Having genetic predisposition (e.g., a mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 or Lynch Syndrome)
  • A family history of ovarian cancer
  • Infertility
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Endometriosis


Most women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced disease. Over 75 percent of women have stage III or IV (spread outside the ovaries and pelvis, to other parts of the abdomen or beyond) disease at the time they are diagnosed. And, despite good initial treatment — surgery and chemotherapy — the majority of these women (about 80%) will have recurrence of their cancer and will not be cured.

Merry-Jennifer Markham

About Merry-Jennifer Markham

Merry Jennifer Markham, MD, is a hematologist-oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. She specializes in lymphomas and gynecologic cancers, and she is interested in quality of life during and after cancer therapy.


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4 Responses to 5 Things To Know About Ovarian Cancer

  1. Mary February 26, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Lynch Syndrome is also a genetic cause of ovarian cancer – it is often overlooked. It would be great if you could include this as one of the genetic things to be aware of – I wish that my doctor had been more vigilant given my family history of colon cancer.

    • markhamm@ufl.edu
      markhamm@ufl.edu February 27, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

      Mary — You are correct, indeed. I’ve added it to the list!

  2. Patricia Ennes February 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    I have Ovarian Epitheli Cancer that was diagnosed in 2012 – I had debulking,hysterectomy,appendicts removed and the flap over my stomach removed.

    I received inter peritoneal chemo via a port in my abdomen, and IV chemo – I was cancer free for three months then developed cancer in my liguinal node – I received IV chemo and have been cancer free for almost a year.

    I did discover that the same node I had the cancer in seems to ha enlarged slightly – I saw my Doc. He examined me said my examination was normal and that I probably do have some cancer cells in the abdominal area but since I am not symptomatic at this time he wants to hold off on any intervention – does this make sense considering my history? Thanks, Pat

    • markhamm@ufl.edu
      markhamm@ufl.edu February 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

      Hello Pat. Thank you for commenting. We can’t give any medical advice, here, so I would suggest you bring this up with your physician. You may also wish to consider asking for a second opinion, to help you better understand the decision making and your choices.

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