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Ovarian cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

July 02, 2024.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 19,680 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2024.  Although relatively rare—accounting for about 3 percent of all cancers in women—ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States.

No ovarian cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

Ovarian cancer is such an important focus at City of Hope that each of our hospitals has a Gynecologic Cancer Center, focusing on treating women with cancer of the reproductive organs. Our gynecologic oncologists are trained and experienced in treating all stages of ovarian cancer, from diagnosis to survivorship. They will lead your multidisciplinary care team, managing aspects of your treatment, from performing tumor-removal surgery to administering chemotherapy, immunotherapy and/or hormone therapy.

Your care team will also tailor your treatment plan based on your individual needs, such as incorporating fertility-preserving options if possible and helping you manage ovarian cancer-related side effects, like fatigue, nausea and neuropathy.

This overview will cover the basic facts about ovarian cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion for ovarian cancer at City of Hope, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes ovarian cancer?

Who gets ovarian cancer?

Two-thirds of women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed after menopause, at age 55 or older.

Those with a mother, sister, grandmother or aunt who has had ovarian cancer are also at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Ninette Randall

Ninette R.

Ovarian Cancer

"The day of my surgery, I was a nervous but confident about choosing City of Hope. I arrived at the hospital and began to prep for my surgery. The various nurses and doctors came in to greet me and made sure I knew their role during surgery. The team was so accommodating and encouraging to us. We never felt rushed. They allowed my support system to make me feel comfortable before I had to go in for surgery. It was clear that I also had a dedicated team of doctors and clinicians who were there to support me. "


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Ovarian cancer types

There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer, with most identified based on the name of the cell in which the cancer originates.

Cancerous ovarian tumors develop most commonly in the epithelial cells, which make up the outer layer of the ovary (epithelial ovarian cancer); in the germ cells, which form eggs (germ cell tumors); or in the stromal cells, which produce and release hormones (ovarian stromal tumors).

The types of cancer of the ovaries include:

  • Epithelial ovarian carcinomas, including mucinous, endometrioid, clear cell, undifferentiated and, in rare instances, some that form in ovarian low malignant potential tumors
  • Primary peritoneal carcinoma (also called primary peritoneal cancer)
  • Fallopian tube cancer
  • Immature teratomas
  • Dysgerminoma ovarian germ cell cancer
  • Endodermal sinus tumor (yolk sac tumor)
  • Choriocarcinomas
  • Sex cord-stromal tumors (also called sex cord tumors, sex cord-gonadal stromal tumors or ovarian stromal tumors), including granulosa cell tumors, granulosa-theca
  • Tumors and Sertoli-Leydig tumors • Ovarian sarcomas, including carcinosarcomas, adenosarcomas, leiomyosarcomas and fibrosarcomas
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Recurrent ovarian cancer

Learn more about ovarian cancer types

Ovarian cancer symptoms

Diagnosing ovarian cancer

Many people mistakenly believe that a Pap smear tests can provide an ovarian cancer diagnosis. In fact, there is no reliable routine screening test for ovarian cancer. Most ovarian cancers aren’t diagnosed until they have progressed to a more advanced stage. Symptoms during the early stages of the disease mimic common stomach and digestive issues that are often mistaken for minor ailments.

At City of Hope, our oncology team uses a variety of techniques to diagnose ovarian cancer, including:

  • Ovarian biopsy
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scan
  • Ultrasound, including transvaginal ultrasound
  • Advanced genetic testing, examining abnormal cells for DNA alterations
  • CA-125 test, a blood test to determine levels of the CA-125 protein
  • Pelvic exam

Learn about diagnostic procedures for ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer treatment options

Diagnosis and treatment options at our City of Hope Gynecologic Cancer Centers

At City of Hope, we recognize that cancers of the female reproductive system affect women in unique ways. That’s why we created the Women’s Cancer Center at each of our hospitals, located around the country. At these specially designed centers, our multidisciplinary team of doctors and clinicians are singularly focused on screening, diagnosing and treating breast cancer and gynecologic cancers with a sense of urgency. Our supportive care services are designed to help address symptoms and side effects, to help you have the strength and stamina to continue your treatment and the quality of life to help you continue everyday activities throughout your cancer journey.

Within each Women’s Cancer Center, we offer patients with ovarian and other gynecologic patients even more specialized care at our Gynecologic Cancer Centers, where our care teams treat each patient’s specific cancer using standard-of-care and, when appropriate, innovative precision medicine treatments.

Many patients may need to undergo surgery to remove one ovary and one fallopian tube (unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) or to remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy), while others will require a hysterectomy to remove the uterus. Other women may qualify for targeted therapy treatment with PARP inhibitors, which are designed to stop the cancer cells from repairing themselves. Other options may include chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or radiation therapy—by themselves or in combination. Women who want to preserve their ability to have children may opt for ovarian cortex cryopreservation, which involves freezing ovarian tissue before cancer treatment, and patients who qualify may be enrolled in clinical trials, further widening their access to new and innovative treatment options.

Deciding on which cancer treatment is right for you is an important part of the treatment plan process, and each patient has a central role in the decision-making process. Your care team will oversee the many aspects of your ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment, including reviewing your medical records and history, performing a pelvic exam and lab tests, when necessary, and ordering diagnostic procedures to help determine a treatment plan designed just for you and your needs.

Your gynecologic oncologist will discuss with you and your caregiver the treatment options available to you, while also sharing the ways supportive care services may be incorporated into your cancer treatment plan. These strategies—like nutritional support, pain management and oncology rehabilitation—are designed to help you manage, and when possible, prevent treatment-related side effects and maintain your quality of life, so you can feel better while getting better.