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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer develops in one or both ovaries, the glands responsible for forming and storing a woman's eggs (ova).

Risk factors for ovarian cancer include age over 55, starting periods before age 12, never being pregnant, infertility, use of certain fertility drugs, use of estrogen replacement therapy after menopause, a family history of breast, uterine or colorectal cancer, or a personal history of having these cancers.

Although it is impossible to prevent cancer, women at high risk may be able to lower their risk by taking certain precautionary measures, such as:

  • Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats
  • Taking birth control pills (which contain estrogen and progesterone)
  • Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)
  • Oophrectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries)
  • Tubal ligation (surgical blockage of the fallopian tubes, to prevent conception and pregnancy).

How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Frequenstly Asked Questions
Genetic Cancer Risk Assessment Program



How is it diagnosed?

Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the symptoms typically go unnoticed.  As ovarian cancer progresses, symptoms include pain or pressure in the abdomen, pelvic area or lack, bloating in the abdomen, nausea or indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, and fatigue.  Other symptoms include unusual vaginal bleeding such as bleeding after menopause, shortness of breath, or feeling the urge to urinate frequently because of pressure on the bladder.

In addition to a pelvic exam and blood test, your doctor may recommend dilation and curettage (D&C)-which requires dilation of the cervix so the physician can scrape a tissue sample from the uterus, using a curette instrument. The tissue sample from the D&C is then analyzed in the pathology lab.

If the tissue is found to be cancerous, there may be further tests, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan)-a diagnostic imaging procedure that combines multiple X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images ("slices") of organs, bones, muscle and other tissue.  CT scans help the doctors know whether the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries.
  • Ultrasound-which uses high-frequency soundwaves to create a moving, real-time image of the internal organs.
  • Barium enema-a special X-ray of the lower intestine, to help determine if cancer has spread.
  • Colonoscopy-using a long, thin, lighted tube, the physician can look inside the rectum and colon to see if cancer has spread to these locations.

Advocate Christ Medical Center has a genetic risk assessment program that offers genetic counseling and testing for families who are at a high risk for ovarian cancer.


How is it treated?

Surgery, chemotherapy and hormone are the main methods of treatment for ovarian cancer.  Radiation therapy is recommended only occasionally for this type of cancer.

Surgery-hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is often recommended.  This procedure can be done via a large incision across the abdomen, or using a minimally invasive approach with access through the vagina.  The fallopian tubes and ovaries (salpingo-oophrectomy) also is recommended.

Chemotherapy-uses special medications taken intravenously or orally to destroy cancer cells.  Patients usually have chemotherapy several times a week for several weeks.

Hormone therapy-uses hormones or hormone-blocking medication to slow or block the growth of cancer cells.



How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?

Advocate Christ Medical Center offers lifelong treatment for women with gynecologic cancers and pre-cancerous conditions. From diagnostic testing to advanced treatment options, our gynecologic oncology physicians and nurses provide personalized, compassionate care. 

Our genetics program offers genetic testing and risk assessment for people concerned about a family history or ovarian cancer.  Genetic testing can identify specific genes related to ovarian cancer.  Medical geneticists and genetic counselors can provide blood testing and counseling for family members who may be at risk for ovarian cancer because of genetic factors.

Advocate Christ Medical Center is accredited by the American College of Surgeons as a designated "teaching hospital."  We've earned the highest designation possible for a non-university cancer program.

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