Ovaries Before Brovaries

Ovarian Cancer

What is it?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which some cells of the ovary undergo changes and develop into cancer. Cancer can develop in one or both of the ovaries and can sometimes spread more widely. More than 1200 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. Both germ cell and sex-chord stromal cell ovarian cancers are curable. There are four types of ovarian cancer: epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell ovarian cancer, sex-cord stromal cell ovarian cancer and borderline tumours.


The cause of ovarian cancer is still unknown but risk factors for women include having been through menopause, having few or no children, starting periods early and going through menopause late, being overweight, smoking, endometriosis, a family history of cancer and inheriting genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

What to look out for

The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are abdominal pain and bloating, which can be confused with other health issues. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, unexplained weight gain, pain during sex, vaginal bleeding, feeling tired and changes in bowel or bladder habits.

How is it tested?

Some of the tests to diagnose ovarian cancer include physical examination of the lower abdomen and pelvis, blood tests (to test for the protein CA 125 that can be high in ovarian cancer), ultrasounds and other imaging tests and surgery which is the only definitive way to see if you have ovarian cancer.

How to prevent it

The only way to prevent ovarian cancer is by knowing you are at risk and be aware that there is no way to truly prevent it. However having a baby, using birth control pills (for more than five years), have your tubes tied, quitting smoking, have your ovaries removed and getting a hysterectomy all reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.