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When a woman has ovarian cancer, it means that malignant, or cancerous, cells are developing in the tissues of her ovaries. Risk factors for the condition include age, a family history of the disease, and increased levels of CA 125 (a tumor marker). Treatment options, as well as a woman's prognosis for ovarian cancer, depend on the type and stage of the cancer and whether it has spread.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the ovaries. Approximately 1 in every 69 women in the United States will develop this type of cancer during their lifetime. And, while most cases occur in women over the age of 50, this disease can also affect younger women.
An ovarian cancer diagnosis brings with it many questions and a need for clear, understandable answers. Having important information can make it easier for women and their families to handle the challenges that they face.

Understanding the Ovaries

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system, which are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries have two functions: they produce eggs and female hormones (chemicals that control the way certain cells or organs function). Every month, during the menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one ovary in a process called ovulation. The egg travels from the ovary through the fallopian tube to the uterus.
The ovaries are also the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones influence the development of a woman's breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

There are several different types of ovarian cancer. Some of these include:


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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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