Ovarian cancer

Alternative Names

Cancer – ovaries

Definition of Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is cancer that starts in the ovaries. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs that produce eggs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, and it causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer.


Ovarian cancer symptoms are often vague. Women and their doctors often blame the symptoms on other, more common conditions. By the time the cancer is diagnosed, the tumor has often spread beyond the ovaries.

Signs and tests

A physical examination may reveal a swollen abdomen and fluid in the abdominal cavity (). A pelvic examination may reveal an ovarian or .


Surgery is part of the treatment for all stages of ovarian cancer. For earlier stages, it may be the only treatment. Surgery involves:

Expectations (prognosis)

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


Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 11/5/2009

Female reproductive anatomy
Ascites with ovarian cancer, CT scan
Peritoneal and ovarian cancer, CT scan
Ovarian cancer dangers
Ovarian growth worries
Ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer metastasis

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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