Ovarian Cancer

Incidence

Cancer of the ovary is 12th overall, and ranks 5th among females. An estimated 2,032 cases will occur in 1998. Incidence increase starting at age 40.

Risk factors

Few specific risk factors have been defined – nulliparity, history of breast or endometrial cancer and of menstrual difficulties. Increased familial incidence has also been reported. Pregnancy and oral contraceptives are possibly protective. The role of exogenous hormones as a protective factor is still being studied.

Warning signals

Ovarian cancers are usually asymptomatic at the outset and many case are detected late. It is usually detected because of an abdominal mass, or mass felt during pelvic examination.

Early detection

Thorough annual pelvic examinations may detect early ovary cancer. This is recommended to start at age 40.

Treatment

For early cancer of the ovary, surgery is curative. In some cases of advanced cancer, surgery followed by chemotherapy may increase survival. Advanced cancer requires judicious and cost effective palliative care.