Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer affecting women today. In fact, ovarian cancer is responsible for more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer, according to data from PubMedHealth.1

According to the American Cancer Society, 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a cancer that begins in the ovaries. The ovaries are female reproductive organs located in the pelvis, roughly the size of an almond. These female reproductive organs are responsible for releasing eggs and producing female hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian cancer starts in healthy cells that make up tissues; tissues are the building blocks of all organs in the body. Cells will normally divide to form new cells as necessary. When cells grow old and die, new, healthy cells grow to replace them.

But in some cases, this process goes awry. New cells will begin to form unnecessarily, and old cells will not die at the right time. This excess cell growth could cause a tumor, which may be benign or malignant.

Malignant tumors are cancerous and could be life-threatening. In some cases, malignant tumors can be removed, yet there is a chance that they could grow back. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body and lead to serious internal damage.

How Ovarian Cancer Develops:
Ovarian cancer will affect the body in three different stages:

  1. Attack: A malignant tumor can quickly grow and attack healthy organs near the ovaries, like the uterus and fallopian tubes.
  2. Expand: Cancer cells can break off from the main ovarian tumor. These cells are likely to travel to the abdomen and create new tumors on nearby tissues and organs.
  3. Spread: Once cancer cells have broken off from the main tumor, they can easily spread throughout the lymphatic system to the pelvis, abdomen, and chest. Cancer cells can also penetrate the bloodstream and affect the liver and lungs.

Ovarian Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Unfortunately, the cause for ovarian cancer is unknown. However, DNA does play a role in the development of all types of cancer.

There are several risk factors that women must be aware of:

  • A history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
  • Taking estrogen replacement therapy for more than five years.
  • Being 55 and older. 
  • Never having been pregnant.

A woman that has children early has a lower risk of ovarian cancer; having multiple children can also lower the risk of ovarian cancer. Additionally, taking birth controls can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Contrary to popular belief, fertility drugs have not been linked with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer will normally occur in women over the age of 50, but it can be diagnosed in younger women.
Since the cause is virtually unknown, this cancer is difficult to detect early. Roughly 20% of ovarian cancer cases are detected early, according to the American Cancer Society. Prevention and early detection are the keys to fight ovarian cancer early on and save a life.


  1. "Ovarian cancer - PubMed Health." National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.
Keyword Tags: