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Ovarian cancer

  • Alternative Names

    Cancer - ovaries


    Surgery is used to treat all stages of ovarian cancer. For earlier stage ovarian cancer, it may be the only treatment. Surgery involves:

    • Removal of the uterus (total hysterectomy)
    • Removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy)
    • Partial or complete removal of the omentum, the fatty layer that covers and pads organs in the abdomen
    • Examination, biopsy, or removal of the lymph nodes and other tissues in the pelvis and abdomen

    Surgery performed by a specialist in female reproductive cancer has been shown to result in a higher success rate.

    Chemotherapy is used after surgery to treat any remaining disease. Chemotherapy can also be used if the cancer comes back. Chemotherapy may be given into the veins, or sometimes directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal).

    Radiation therapy is rarely used in ovarian cancer in the United States.

    After surgery and chemotherapy, patients should have:

    • A physical exam (including pelvic exam) every 2 - 4 months for the first 2 years, followed by every 6 months for 3 years, and then annually
    • A CA-125 blood test at each visit if the level was initially high
    • Your doctor may also order a computed tomography (CT) scan of your chest, abdomen, and pelvic area and a chest x-ray.

    Support Groups

    For additional information and resources, see cancer support group.

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages. It is usually quite advanced by the time diagnosis is made

    • About 3 out of 4 women with ovarian cancer survive 1 year after diagnosis.
    • Nearly half of women live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
    • If diagnosis is made early in the disease and treatment is received before the cancer spreads outside the ovary, the 5-year survival rate is very high

    • Spread of the cancer to other organs
    • Loss of organ function
    • Fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
    • Blockage of the intestines

    Calling your health care provider

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are a woman over 40 years old who has not recently had a pelvic examination. Routine pelvic examinations are recommended for all women over 20 years old.

    Call for an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of ovarian cancer.