Ovarian cancer can affect one or both of the ovaries. The ovaries are a pair of small organs in the female reproductive system that contain and release an egg once a month in women of menstruating age. This is known as ovulation.
There are several types of ovarian cancer. They include:
- epithelial ovarian cancer, which affects the surface layers of the ovary; it is by far the most common type
- germ cell ovarian cancer, which originate in the cells that make the eggs
- stromal tumours, which develop within the cells that release female hormones
It is also possible to have borderline epithelial tumours which are not as aggressive as other epithelial tumours. These are sometimes called 'low malignant potential' or LMPO tumours.
Ovarian cancer is most common in women who have experienced menopause (usually over the age of 50), but it can affect women of any age. Cancer of the ovary can spread to other parts of the reproductive system and the surrounding areas, including the womb (uterus), vagina and abdomen.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be similar to those of other conditions making them difficult to recognise. However, there are early symptoms to look out for such as pain in the pelvis and lower stomach, persistent bloating and difficulty eating. Consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
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Last reviewed: December 2017