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Ovarian Cancer

Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the womb (uterus) in the pelvis. The ovaries produce eggs and are the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Each ovary is connected to the uterus by Fallopian tubes.

Many kinds of tumors can start in the ovaries, but not all are cancerous. Cancerous tumors can be one of several kinds of ovarian cancer. However, nearly nine out of 10 ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian cancer. These tumors are also given a grade, from one to three, depending on how much the cells look like normal cells under a microscope. Grade one means the cells look more normal; grade three cells look less normal and have a more serious outlook.

If cancer is suspected, surgery will usually be performed to get tissue samples for staging the extent of ovarian cancer. The surgeon may also remove the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Stage I means the cancer is only in the ovary (or ovaries). 
  • Stage II means that cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to other organs in the pelvis such as the bladder, colon, rectum, or uterus; however, it has not spread to lymph nodes, the abdomen or distant places. 
  • Stage III means the cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to one or both of the following: the lining of the belly (abdomen) or the lymph nodes. 
  • Stage IV is the most advanced stage. The cancer has spread from one or both ovaries to distant organs such as the liver or lungs, or there may be cancer cells in the fluid around the lungs. 
The choice of treatment depends largely on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. The main treatments for ovarian cancer are:
Depending on the stage, two or even all three of these treatments will be used.