Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Tests Recommended For Ovarian Cancer

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Ovarian cancer is one the most common cancers to afflict women. This cancer begins in women's ovaries and, in turn, affects the other reproduction organs. Ovarian cancer is fifth most prevalent form of cancer.

Tests Recommended

There are different tests for ovarian cancer. You can do a physical examination of the abdomen or a pelvic examination which could reveal unexplained mass. Physical tests can be extremely limiting as they can identify the problem area but not really identify the problem.

There are also blood tests that can be done if you want to identify ovarian cancer. Though blood tests are not considered a good indicator, the CA 125 blood test is often the most common one used. It is especially useful if the woman shows other symptoms of ovarian cancer. Some of the other tests include a complete blood count and blood chemistry test, a pregnancy hormone test, an ultrasound, an MRI and, of course, a biopsy. An ultrasound or MRI of the pelvis helps identify immediately if there is any foreign mass in these organs. Once the mass is identified, a small incision is made and part of this mass is removed. This mass or cells is further tested for cancer. Due to nature of ovarian cancer, it is usually undetected in such tests at the early stages.


Ovarian cancer causes are yet to be exactly determined by science. No specific cause has been identified. Some research says having children later in life increases the woman's risk for ovarian cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes that have also been associated with ovarian cancer. These genes are associated with genetic defects and can even be inherited genetic syndromes. Genetic mutations or acquired genetic changes are also known to cause ovarian cancer. These changes tend to occur in a woman's life and can show up once she is exposed to radical treatments for other conditions. Like radiation for one kind of cancer can eventually lead to ovarian cancer.

The Cowden's disease, a hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, the Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or MUTYH-associated polyposis are all different forms of cancer that can also cause ovarian cancer, among other forms of cancer as a result of its treatment.


Ovarian cancer has some distinct symptoms. Often these symptoms can be diagnosed wrongly so if these symptoms persist without any apparent relief, you should consult a doctor or a specialist.

Often, because the symptoms of ovarian cancer are so vague, by the time the cancer is diagnosed, the cancer has inevitably spread to other parts of the body. The main symptoms include

  • Constant abdominal pressure
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Change in bowel and bladder habits
  • A loss of appetite.
  • Physical pain or discomfort in the pelvic region
  • Increased abdominal girth
  • A persistent lack of energy and low back pain.
  • Vaginal bleeding and unexplained weight gain.

It is important to be able to spot the symptoms early and most of the early symptoms are just pain and discomfort. You should remember that if it a persistent symptom, however vague, it is important to get a complete check up. It can also help if you are aware of the causes that could lead to ovarian cancer.


Ovarian cancer treatment, like most cancers, involves surgery to remove the infected organ or organs. Surgery could mean removal of the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, and even fatty tissue surrounding the abdomen or the pelvic region. Surgery in the case of ovarian cancer has often proved successful for most women. After the removal of these organs, patients are given some external therapy like chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill any other cancerous cells that might have been left behind after the surgery.

There are some new forms of treatment too which are currently being experimented. The aim of these treatments is to arrest the spread of ovarian cancer much before it can be detected on the outside. Targeted therapy is one such treatment. In this treatment, women are injected with a biological agent called bevacizumab which is known to block blood flow for the growth of new cancerous cells. This is a treatment only used with women who have had surgery for ovarian cancer in order to prevent further cancer. Hormone therapy is yet another new treatment for ovarian cancer. Clinical trials have indicated that patients injected with an anti-estrogen drug could push chemotherapy to later in their treatment, even delay it by three years. This treatment has enabled a longer life for patients of ovarian cancer. A similar treatment is already being used for patients of breast cancer. Cutting of the production of estrogen is believed to reduce and even stop the growth of such cancers that are dependent on estrogen. This treatment improves the survivor rate as ovarian cancer almost always results in fatality.