Ovarian cancer is a cancer that develops in a woman’s ovaries, the female reproductive organs that produce eggs. There are three main types of ovarian cancers: ovarian epithelial carcinomas, malignant germ cell tumors, and stromal cell carcinomas. In ovarian epithelial carcinomas, the cancer begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary. With malignant germ cell tumors, the cancer starts in the egg cells and are more common in younger woman. Stromal cell cancers start in the supporting cells of the ovary. Most ovarian cancers are ovarian epithelial carcinomas.
A woman has approximately a one in 67 chance of developing ovarian cancer during her lifetime. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, and it causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer. Older women have the highest risk for ovarian cancer. Approximately two-thirds of the deaths from ovarian cancer occur in women age 55 and older. About 25% of ovarian cancer deaths occur in women between 35 and 54 years of age.
Like several cancers of the reproductive organs, the cause of ovarian cancer is not known, although some risk factors have been identified.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and non-specific. This makes it easy to incorrectly attribute the symptoms of ovarian cancer to other, more common, conditions which can lead to delayed treatment. As a result, ovarian cancer can spread before it is correctly diagnosed.