Basic Information About Ovarian Cancer
Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later.
Ovarian cancer is a group of diseases that originates in the ovaries, or in the related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum. Women have two ovaries that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries make female hormones and produce eggs. Women have two fallopian tubes that are a pair of long, slender tubes on each side of the uterus. Eggs pass from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. The peritoneum is the tissue lining that covers organs in the abdomen.
When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment works best. Ovarian cancer often causes signs and symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional.
Some mutations (changes in genes) can raise your risk for ovarian cancer. Mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes 1 and 2 (BRCA1 and BRCA2), and those associated with Lynch syndrome, raise ovarian cancer risk. The Know:BRCA tool can help you understand your risk of having a BRCA gene mutation.
Each year in the United States, about 21,000 women get ovarian cancer and about 14,000 die from it. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, but it accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women. The pattern of ovarian cancer incidence varies among women of different races and ethnic backgrounds. White women have the highest incidence of ovarian cancer, followed by Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, black, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
Ovarian cancers come in a variety of different tumor types. The most common tumor type is high-grade serous carcinoma, occurring in about 70% of ovarian cancer cases.