Understanding Ovarian Cancer

Posted on: 20 July 2018

Ovarian cancer typically starts in the epithelial cells that cover the ovaries and causes abnormal cell growth and the development of tumours. Cancerous cells can spread into surrounding tissues if you are not diagnosed early enough, and although any woman can develop ovarian cancer, it's more common in older women who have been through the menopause. The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not yet fully understood, but there are certain factors that are believed to increase your risk of developing this type of cancer, such as being overweight, taking hormone replacement drugs, a family history of any cancer of the reproductive system and having endometriosis. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for ovarian cancer:


Symptoms of ovarian cancer include regularly feeling bloated, loss of appetite and feeling uncomfortably full after a small meal or snack. You may also experience lower abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss and tiredness. Changes to your bladder and bowel habits, such as passing urine more frequently or having regular bouts of diarrhoea or constipation, can also be a sign of ovarian cancer.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your first point of call when you have any symptoms that could be indicative of ovarian cancer is your GP. They will take details of your symptoms, carry out an internal exam to check for noticeable abnormalities and take blood samples. The level of CA125 in your blood will be checked. This is a protein that is sometimes elevated in those with ovarian cancer, and high levels of CA125 will need to be investigated by an oncologist. When your GP refers you to an oncologist, they will carry out diagnostic imaging, such as an ultrasound to check for the presence of tumours. They may also perform a laparoscopy, which involves having a thin tube with a camera attached inserted through a small incision in your lower abdomen. A laparoscopy allows your doctor to view your ovaries and take biopsies, if required.

Treatment for ovarian cancer typically involves having your ovaries surgically removed, and if there are any signs of cancer in the fallopian tubes or womb, they will also be removed. If you think you'd like to have children in the future, your doctor can help you arrange egg storage. After surgery, you may undergo a round of chemotherapy to ensure any remaining cancer cells are killed off, which will decrease the likelihood of ovarian cancer returning in the future. When ovarian cancer has spread to the point where it can no longer be cured, radiotherapy may be used to shrink tumours and prolong your quality of life for as long as possible.

If you have any of the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, schedule an urgent GP appointment. Bulk billing can be applied to GP services, diagnostic tests and consultations with a specialist, so don't hesitate to seek medical attention, as early diagnosis can improve the treatment outcome. Contact a bulk-billing medical centre to learn more.