Ovarian cancer is a cancer of the ovaries. It is often discovered in a late stage as it does not usually cause any symptoms for a long time. Similar to breast cancer, there are certain genetic risk factors for ovarian cancer with mutations in the BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes. Thanks to genetic tests, ovarian cancer can be diagnosed and treated more precisely than in the past.
After uterine cancer, ovarian cancer is the second most common cancer of the female reproductive organs. Benign ovarian cysts must be differentiated from malignant ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer usually only occurs after menopause. The risk increases as you get older. However, younger women can also fall ill with the disease. Similar to breast cancer, mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are associated with a high risk of ovarian cancer. Conditions which prolong the effect of the female hormone oestrogen on the body are also considered to be risk factors. These include early menarche, childlessness and late menopause.
As ovarian cancer does not usually cause any symptoms at the beginning, it is frequently only discovered in an advanced stage. The symptoms are also rather unspecific. A feeling of pressure or pain in the lower abdomen, a feeling of fullness, nausea or loss of weight can be signs of ovarian cancer. Intermenstrual bleeding or bleeding after menopause are also suspicious and should be clarified by a doctor. If there is a history of ovarian cancer in your family, a genetic examination is recommended.
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed with an ultrasound examination, computed tomography or an MRI. The latest blood examinations which measure tumour markers or genetic examinations make it possible to diagnose the cancer at an earlier stage more often than in the past.
The treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. If it is discovered at an early stage, the prospects of recovery are good. If possible, the tumour will be completely removed surgically. Find out more in the ovarian surgery section. Chemotherapy or antibody therapy is usually also required in addition to surgical treatment. Thanks to genetic examinations, different medications can be used in a targeted manner to combat this cancer.