Ovarian cancer arises in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). It typically appears as masses on the ovaries or fallopian tubes but can spread to other locations in the abdomen.
Ovarian cancer is the eighth most diagnosed cancer in Australian females and is the sixth most frequent form of cancer in women worldwide. Each year around 1800 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and only 29% diagnosed at a late stage will survive for more than five years.
The causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, but risk factors include age, reproductive history, inherited genes, medical conditions such as endometriosis and lifestyle and hormonal factors. Symptoms can be vague and both women and their medical professionals can mistakenly attribute them to common female complaints, which delays taking further steps, thus significantly reducing survival rates.
There is currently no screening or early detection method for ovarian cancer, which means that often diagnosis happens when the disease has already advanced. The only way to definitively diagnose ovarian cancer is by taking a tissue sample during surgery.
Patients with early-stage disease (stage one or two) require surgical removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries, as well as a staging procedure to determine the extent of cancer spread. Patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer require the surgical removal of as much cancer as possible which may mean the loss of uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, omentum, bowel, spleen, diaphragm, and abdominal peritoneum. Virtually all patients require chemotherapy, however most patients with advanced ovarian cancer will relapse.
Statistical Source – Cancer Australia, the lead cancer control agency to the Government of Australia.