Patient Fact Sheet – Ovarian Cancer 

By Dr Helen Green, Gynaecological Oncologist at Gold Coast Private Hospital

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian Cancer is a malignant tumour that arises from the ovary/ovaries.  Tumours that arise from the fallopian tubes or the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen and pelvis) behave in the same way as ovarian cancer and are treated similarly. While Ovarian Cancer can occur at any age, it’s more common in women over the age of 50.

What are the symptoms?

In the early stages, ovarian cancer often has no symptoms.  Because of this the majority of ovarian cancers are diagnosed when they have developed the ability to spread to other organs.  
Symptoms that are associated with ovarian cancer include:

  • pressure, pain or discomfort in the abdomen or pelvis 
  • a swollen or bloated abdomen 
  • changes in appetite, such as not feeling like eating, or feeling full quickly 
  • changes in toilet habits (e.g. constipation, diarrhoea, passing urine more often, increased wind) 
  • indigestion and feeling sick (nausea) 
  • feeling very tired 
  • unexplained weight loss or weight gain 
  • changes in the pattern of periods, or vaginal bleeding after menopause 
  • pain during sex. 

 However, it’s important to note that these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have cancer – another health condition might cause them.

What are the risk factors?

The lifetime risk of developing an ovarian cancer in Australia is 1 in 84.
Some factors that increase this risk are

  • increasing age
  • an inherited faulty gene e.g the BRCA mutation
  • family history: having one or more close blood relatives diagnosed with ovarian, breast, bowel or uterine cancers
  • endometriosis: this condition is caused by tissue from the lining of the uterus growing outside the uterus 
  • reproductive history: women who have not had children, women who are diagnosed with infertility
  • lifestyle factors: smoking or being overweight 
  • hormonal factors: such as late menopause.  Hormone replacement therapy after menopause can lead to 1 additional ovarian cancer diagnosis per 1000 users.  

Is there a screening test?

There is no effective screening test for women who do not have symptoms.  Risk-reducing surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes may be recommended for women who have a genetic mutation or family history that places them at a high lifetime risk of developing an ovarian cancer.  

If you do have symptoms, your GP should consider performing a TVUS (Transvaginal Ultrasound) and CA-125 blood test that measures the amount of a protein called CA-125 in the blood.  

What should I do if I am worried about ovarian cancer?

If you are experiencing the above symptoms, it’s best to arrange a check-up with your General Practitioner or gynaecologist. Don’t forget to record any symptoms or concerns that you are experiencing to discuss with your doctor.

For more information, Contact:

Grace Private 
Suite 5, Ground Floor 
Gold Coast Private Hospital 
Southport QLD 4215
P: 07 5594 7632

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