Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is cancer that develops in the ovaries, the reproductive glands that produce eggs. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women in the U.S. and comprises about 3 percent of all cancers in women. Ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of all gynecologic cancers.

Our experienced gynecologic cancer team provides comprehensive, compassionate care to women with ovarian cancer. We also encourage our patients to take advantage of the many patient support services offered by Simmons Cancer Center.

Asking the Doctor About Ovarian Cancer

Debra Richardson, M.D., discusses the diagnosis, treatment, and possible hysterectomy associated with ovarian cancer. 

Types of Ovarian Cancer

There are two primary types of ovarian cancer:

  • Ovarian epithelial carcinoma, which arises in the ovary’s surface cells
  • Malignant germ-cell tumors, which develop inside egg cells 

Inherited genetic mutations, including those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, as well as some other familial conditions can raise a woman’s risk of both ovarian and breast cancer.

Symptoms

Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread to the pelvis and abdomen. As it progresses, patients may experience:

  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling, or bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain
  • Persistent indigestion, gas, or nausea
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full after eating
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • A persistent lack of energy
  • Pain in the lower back or side

Women experiencing symptoms that could indicate ovarian cancer should see their physicians.

Diagnosis

Our gynecologic cancer physicians may recommend a physical exam, blood work, or additional testing for women with symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Working closely with our colleagues in Radiology, we use a wide range of oncology imaging techniques to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients with ovarian cancer. These include:

Treatments

Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on its characteristics and stage, your overall health, and your preferences and goals. Options typically include:

Surgery
If ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, surgery may involve removing only one ovary and its fallopian tube. Women with more advanced stages of ovarian cancer may require surgery to remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes, the uterus, omentum, and nearby lymph nodes.
Laparoscopic surgery
In minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, small incisions are made in the abdomen. Tiny cameras and instruments are inserted through the incisions. The cameras guide the surgeon to use the instruments to remove the cancer or diseased organs. 
Chemotherapy
After surgery, most patients require chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Clinical Trials

Many patients qualify to participate in the gynecologic cancer-related clinical trials conducted at UT Southwestern to gain access to new medical treatments and to further research of the disease.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with an ovarian cancer specialist at UT Southwestern, please fill out the Request an Appointment form or call 214-645-8300.