Ovarian Cancer- All You Need to Know

May 20th, 2024 | 10:25 am

Ovarian cancer is a type of oncological anomaly beginning in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and hormones. It is a severe and often deadly disease, with symptoms that can be vague and easily mistaken for other conditions. Early detection of cancer is highly crucial, as it can significantly improve treatment outcomes. However, most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage due to the lack of practical screening tests and the non-specific nature of early symptoms. 

What are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

It’s important to note that these symptoms can also indicate other conditions. Still, if they persist or worsen, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis. Early detection significantly improves treatment outcomes for ovarian cancer.

Early Symptoms

The early signs & symptoms of ovarian cancer can be subtle and general and easily mistaken for other medical conditions, making early detection challenging. However, knowing these signs is crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment. Some common early warning signs of ovarian cancer include – 

  • Tumours growing in the pelvis can cause discomfort similar to period cramps.
  • Ascites, fluid buildup in the abdomen, could lead to a loss of appetite.
  • Indigestion, upset stomach, and nausea.
  • Ovarian cancer cells affecting the bladder can cause these urinary changes.
  • Fatigue that is persistent and unexplained.
  • Pain or pressure in the lower back or pelvis.
  • Persistent bloating and changes in bowel habits.
  • Abdominal changes that are unusual.
  • Unexplained discomfort during sex can be a warning sign.

Advanced Symptoms

  • Persistent abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhoea
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Back pain
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Pain during intercourse

What are the Causes of Ovarian Cancer?

The exact cause of this cancer is not yet understood, but several factors have been identified that can increase the risk of developing this disease. However, doctors have found genetic factors to play a significant role. Inherited gene mutations, particularly in the BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes, can significantly increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Additionally, certain genetic conditions like Lynch syndrome are associated with a higher risk. Most ovarian cancers, however, are caused by acquired genetic changes occurring during a woman’s lifetime rather than being inherited.

Other risk factors include older age, with most cases diagnosed in women over 65. Endometriosis – a type of medical condition where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, has also been linked to a highly increased risk of ovarian cancer. Moreover, factors related to ovulation, starting menstruation at an early age, and going through menopause late may contribute to the development of ovarian cancer.

In addition to all these, lifestyle factors like –

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer. 

However, the use of oral contraceptives has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed with the help of a combination of physical examinations and imaging & blood tests. The process usually begins with a pelvic exam, where the doctor checks for abnormal growths or changes in the ovaries. If something suspicious is found, additional tests may be ordered.

  • Imaging tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound and CT scans, are commonly used to visualise the ovaries and check for tumours. Transvaginal ultrasound is considered more accurate as it allows the technician to place a probe directly into the vagina, close to the ovaries.
  • A blood test done to detect and measure the levels of CA-125 protein can also be helpful in diagnosis, as most ovarian cancer cells release this protein. However, other conditions can also raise CA-125 levels, so this test is not recommended for women without symptoms or risk factors.

In some cases, a biopsy might be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. It involves removing a tiny tissue sample (as required) from the tumour, which a pathologist examines under a microscope. If cancer is found, additional tests might be done to determine the stage along with the grade of the cancer, which helps guide treatment.

How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?

The specific treatment plan depends on the stage and grade of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and desire to preserve fertility. Treatment might involve a combination of these approaches, and clinical trials of new therapies are also an option for some patients. Ovarian cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery & chemotherapy –


  • Salpingo-oophorectomy: It is the surgery to remove one or both ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • Unilateral Salpingo-oophorectomy: It is the removal of one ovary and fallopian tube, which may be an option for women planning to have children if the cancer is confined to one side
  • Bilateral Salpingo-oophorectomy: It is the removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes, which is often done for known cancer or as a preventive measure in high-risk women
  • Hysterectomy: Surgical removal of the uterus
  • Omentectomy: Removal of the omentum, a fold of fatty tissue in the abdomen
  • Debulking surgery: It involves the removal of as much of the tumour as possible


Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment using drugs to kill rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. In ovarian cancer, chemotherapy is commonly used after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells & reduce the risk of recurrence. It can also be used before surgery to shrink tumours, making them easier to remove. Chemotherapy drugs might be administered orally or intravenously and can target cancer cells throughout your body. While chemotherapy could cause side effects due to its impact on healthy cells, it remains a crucial component of ovarian cancer treatment, often used in combination with surgery and other therapies to improve outcomes and increase survival rates.

Targeted Therapy

PARP inhibitors are used as a specific type of targeted therapy for the treatment of ovarian cancer. PARP enzymes help repair damaged DNA in cells. In ovarian cancer, PARP inhibitors work by blocking these enzymes, causing cancer cells to accumulate DNA damage and ultimately leading to their death. This approach is efficient in cancers with mutations in genes involved in DNA repair, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. PARP inhibitors can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with chemotherapy, providing a promising option for patients with ovarian cancer, especially those with specific genetic mutations.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy can be effective in treating certain types of ovarian cancer that are hormone-sensitive. By blocking or suppressing the body’s production of hormones such as oestrogen or progesterone, hormone therapy aims to slow down or even halt the growth of ovarian cancer cells. This approach is particularly beneficial for specific subtypes of ovarian cancer, such as hormone receptor-positive ovarian cancers. However, hormone therapy is not practical for all ovarian cancer types and is typically used in combination with other cancer treatments like surgery, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


Immunotherapy enhances the body’s natural defences to fight ovarian cancer. Targeting specific molecules on cancer cells or stimulating the immune system helps recognise and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Treatments like immune checkpoint inhibitors, adoptive cell transfer, and therapeutic vaccines show promising results in boosting the immune response against ovarian cancer, offering hope for improved outcomes and survival rates.

The goal of treatment is to remove as much of the cancer as possible through surgery and then use additional therapies like chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. Regular follow-up appointments are necessary to monitor for recurrence after treatment is completed.

Recovery Tips to Recover from Ovarian Cancer

Recovering from ovarian cancer requires a comprehensive approach that addresses physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Here are some recovery tips – 

Physical Recovery

  • Follow a healthy diet that includes fruits, whole grains, and vegetables to help your body heal.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Engage in gentle exercises like jogging, yoga, or walking to improve flexibility and strength.
  • Get enough sleep & rest to allow your body to recover from treatment.

Emotional and Psychological Recovery

  • Join a support group to connect with others who have experienced ovarian cancer.
  • Practice stress-reducing techniques – meditation or deep breathing
  • Seek counselling or therapy to address anxiety, depression, or fear.
  • Celebrate small milestones and acknowledge your progress.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a healthy weight (start taking a balanced diet and doing regular exercise).
  • Get regular check-ups with your concerned healthcare provider to monitor your progress.

By following the above tips, you can take an active role in your recovery while improving your overall quality of life after ovarian cancer treatment.


Ovarian cancer is a significant health concern for women, with its causes not fully understood. However, ongoing research sheds light on the genetic, hormonal, and lifestyle factors that may contribute to its development. Hence, early detection is crucial, as ovarian cancer often presents with subtle symptoms/signs that can be easily mistaken for other conditions. Usually, the top urologists at Giggles Hospitals advise to get regular pelvic exams, imaging, and blood tests done as they are essential for timely diagnosis.

Be sure to get regular follow-up appointments at Giggles, the top healthcare provider, to monitor the recurrence of ovarian cancer and defeat it with more efficient treatment.