Ovarian cancer

Most cases of ovarian cancer affect women who have been through the menopause, normally aged over 50.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovaries contain a woman’s supply of eggs. They also make the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, and small amounts of the male hormone, testosterone.

Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells begin to multiply and form a tumour. The most common type of ovarian cancer is epithelial cancer. This starts in the cells that cover the ovary or fallopian tubes.

Causes of ovarian cancer

No one knows what causes ovarian cancer. However, you may be more at risk:

    • • If you are over 50 years old
    • • If there’s a family history of ovarian or breast cancer
      • • If you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
      • • If you’ve previously had breast cancer
      • • You have endometriosis
      • Are overweight

    You may be at less risk if:

      • • You are taking the contraceptive pill
      • • You breastfed your children
      • You’ve had children

    Symptoms of ovarian cancer

    It can be difficult to recognise the signs of ovarian cancer. They are similar to other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and may include:

    Feeling bloated, or a swollen tummy

    Feeling exhausted all the time

    Feeling very full when eating

    Needing to urinate more often than usual

    Pain or discomfort in your pelvic area, or tummy

    Unexplained weight loss

    Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

    Tests and diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and any family history of ovarian or breast cancer. They may check your tummy for lumps or swelling, and you may have an internal examination. Other tests can include:

    • Blood tests to look for kidney function and to check tumour markers (ca 125)
    • Vaginal and pelvic ultrasound scan
    • CT scan of the chest/abdomen/pelvis
    • MRI scan of the pelvis to rule out any metastases
    • Needle biopsy to remove a sample of cells or fluid for analysis
    • Laparoscopy – keyhole surgery to remove tissue samples for analysis

    Treatments we offer

    Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. Early ovarian cancer can be treated with surgery alone. Advanced ovarian cancer may require a combination of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy.

    Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

    Read more

    Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

    Read more

    Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

    Read more

    Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

    Read more

    Meet our doctors

    Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

    We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

    Meet our doctors

    Search for a centre near you

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    Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3BF

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    Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 7GU

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