The ovaries are the almond-sized glands in women that create the hormones estrogen and progesterone. They also release eggs for reproduction. The most common type of ovarian cancer begins in cells on the surface of the ovary.
About 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.
The Swedish Cancer Institute is a regional cancer referral center. We treat more women with ovarian cancer than any other center in the region.
Ovarian cancer has been know for many years as the "silent" cancer. Because symptoms of ovarian cancer mimic other conditions, most women will not be diagnosed until their cancer is at an advanced stage.
Symptoms may include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urgency or frequency of urination
- On-going fatigue
Tests for ovarian cancers include a:
- Combination pelvic/rectal exam
- CA-125 blood test to measure a substance in the blood that may be elevated by ovarian cancer
- Vaginal ultrasound or CT scan
- A biopsy to remove a tissue sample to be studied by a pathologist
Determining the stage of cancer is crucial to providing the best possible treatment. With ovarian cancer, the stages are:
- Stage 1: cancer is confined to the ovary
- Stage 2: cancer has spread into adjacent pelvic structures
- Stage 3: cancer has spread into abdominal cavity
- Stage 4: cancer has spread to the liver, lungs or other organ
Staging ovarian cancer requires surgery to find out how much cancer is present and how far it has spread. Historically, this has been done with laparotomy. Laparotomy involves making a long incision down the abdomen.
Many gynecological oncology surgeons at Swedish are experts in robotic staging of ovarian cancer. Robotic staging is far less invasive than laparotomy.
About 75 percent of women have stage 3 or stage 4 ovarian cancer by the time they are diagnosed. It's critically important to remove all cancer – wherever it has spread.
So at the same time surgeons are staging the cancer, they also remove the ovaries and any other cancer tumors they can find.
In a small percentage of women, chemotherapy may be done first to shrink a tumor before surgery. But with ovarian cancer, surgery is done first followed by chemotherapy.
A woman's treatment plan may also include some combination of:
The Swedish Cancer Institute offers a full spectrum of care and services, from promising new treatments in clinical trials to integrated services that include counseling and complementary therapies.
Our multidisciplinary ovarian cancer team works together to properly diagnose and treat people at all stages of cancer. Swedish is also one of the founders and partners of the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.