What is Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovaries begin to multiply out of control and form a tumor. If left untreated, the tumor can spread in other parts of the body. This is called metastatic ovarian cancer. It is easy to overlook the early symptoms of Ovarian Cancer because they are similar to other common illnesses, or they tend to come and go.

Symptoms - Ovarian Cancer

All these symptoms may occur for any number of reasons. These types of symptoms are often temporary and respond to simple treatments in most cases. But the symptoms will persist if they’re due to ovarian cancer. Symptoms usually become more severe as the tumor grows. By this time, cancer has usually spread outside of the ovaries, making it much harder to treat effectively. You should contact your doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms for a significant period.


The ovaries are made up of three types of cells. Each cell can develop into a different type of tumor:
  • Epithelial tumors form in the layer of tissue on the outside of the ovaries. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors.
  • Stromal tumors grow in the hormone-producing cells. Seven percent of ovarian cancers are stromal tumors.
  • Germ cell tumors develop in the egg-producing cells. Germ cell tumors are rare.


It's not clear what causes ovarian cancer, though doctors have identified factors that can increase the risk of the disease.
In general, cancer begins when a cell develops errors (mutations) in its DNA. The mutations tell the cells to grow and multiply quickly, creating a mass (tumor) of abnormal cells. The abnormal cells continue living when healthy cells would die. They can invade nearby tissues and break off from an initial tumor to spread elsewhere in the body (metastasize).

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. Thus, these factors can increase your risk:

Stages of Ovarian Cancer?

There are four stages, and each stage has sub-stages:

Stage 1

Stage 1 ovarian cancer has three sub-stages:
  • Stage 1A: The cancer is limited, or localized, to one ovary.
  • Stage 1B: The cancer is in both ovaries.
  • Stage 1C: There are also cancer cells on the outside of the ovary.

Stage 2

In stage 2, the tumor has spread to other pelvic structures. It has two sub-stages:
  • Stage 2A: The cancer has spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes.
  • Stage 2B: The cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum.

Stage 3

Stage 3 ovarian cancer has three sub-stages:
  • Stage 3A: The cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen and the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
  • Stage 3B: The cancer cells are outside of the spleen or liver.
  • Stage 3C: Deposits of cancer at least 3/4 of an inch are seen on the abdomen or outside the spleen or liver. However, the cancer isn’t inside the spleen or liver.

Stage 4

In stage 4, the tumor has metastasized, or spread, beyond the pelvis, abdomen, and lymph nodes to the liver or lungs. There are two sub-stages in stage 4:
  • In stage 4A, the cancerous cells are in the fluid around the lungs.
  • In stage 4B, the most advanced stage, the cells have reached the inside of the spleen or liver or even other distant organs like the skin or brain.


There are no proven ways to totally eliminate your risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Factors that have been shown to lower your risk of developing ovarian cancer include:
  • taking oral birth control pills
  • breastfeeding
  • pregnancy
  • surgical procedures on your reproductive organs (like a tubal ligation or hysterectomy)