Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms & Treatment

by Nancy

Ovarian cancer is 10th most common type of cancer diagnosed each year in the United States. It is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer of the female reproductive system, following breast cancer. With a fatality rate of over 60 percent, early detection is crucial for effective treatment. Learn more about types of ovarian cancer symptoms and treatments.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

More than 30 types of ovarian cancer exist but most cases arise from 3 different types of tumors that originate in ovarian cells:

• Germ Cells which form the eggs

• Stromal Cells responsible for hormone release

• Surface Epithelium which comprise the cells covering the ovary lining

Cancerous epithelial tumors account for up to 90 percent of all ovarian cancer cases and have a poor cure rate because they are often diagnosed in advance stages.

Ovarian Cancer Stages

Ovarian cancer symptoms and treatments are determined by the following four stages:

Stage I – Cancer cells are confined to one or more ovaries. Stage I ovarian cancer has a 90 percent cure rate.

Stage II – Cancerous cells involve one or more ovaries and also the pelvic area

Stage III – One or two ovaries are cancerous and the disease has spread beyond the pelvic region

Stage IV – Cancer has metastecised throughout the body, often including the lungs, liver or spleen.

Risk Factors

Age is the highest risk factor. Post-menopausal women are at greater risk and women over the age of 65 comprise the largest segment of individuals impacted by ovarian cancer. Women with family history of ovarian or breast cancer may also be at higher risk.


Common symptoms for ovarian cancer include

• weight loss

• changes in bowel movements such as constipation

• increased urge to urinate

• abdominal swelling or bloating

• discomfort in pelvic area

• feeling full after eating small portions

Pain radiating from the pelvis into the lower back, fatigue, exhaustion and nausea are other less common symptoms that may be associated with ovarian cancer.
Bloody or abnormal vaginal discharge may also be an early warning sign of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) because both diseases manifest similar symptoms. However, symptoms of IBS present intermittently while ovarian cancer symptoms do not alleviate and get more progressive over time despite lifestyle changes.


Surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation are the gold standard for treating ovarian cancer.


Early diagnosis is paramount to treating ovarian cancer effectively because of its proclivity to spread rapidly. Early-stage ovarian cancer can spread to terminal Stage 4 cancer within one year. Survival rates vary from over 90 percent for cases diagnosed as Stage I tumors and less than 30 percent for cases diagnosed during stage IV. Overall, approximately 45 percent of women treated for ovarian cancer survive 5 years or longer.