Ovarian Cancer Care at Kaiser Permanente

Ovarian cancer occurs most often in women who are past menopause (no longer having menstrual periods). A woman's risk increases if other women in her family have had ovarian cancer, or have had certain other cancers. When a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the cancer is usually found during a routine appointment with the woman’s personal physician or a women’s health specialist.

At Kaiser Permanente medical offices, our surgical gynecologists and other cancer specialists provide coordinated and compassionate care, with treatment based on the latest technology and research.   

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

This cancer forms in the tissue of the ovaries. The ovaries are a pair of small glands located on each side of the uterus — each one is about the size and shape of an almond. These female reproductive glands are where female sex hormones are produced and eggs are stored and released. 

The most common type of ovarian cancer is epithelial ovarian cancer, in which cancer cells grow in the tissue covering the ovaries. It is also most common in women who are past menopause. The other basic type begins in egg cells and is called an ovarian germ cell tumor. It usually occurs in younger women or teenage girls and most often affects only one ovary. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?  

Ovarian cancer is easiest to treat when it’s in the early stages. However, most women don’t have any symptoms until the cancer has grown over a period of months or even years. Symptoms of epithelial ovarian cancer can include the following:

  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen, pelvis, legs, or back
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, and constipation
  • Less common symptoms include shortness of breath and unusual vaginal bleeding

Symptoms of germ cell ovarian cancer include a swollen abdomen without weight gain in other parts of the body, and in older women, bleeding from the vagina after menopause.

All of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than ovarian cancer. If you have these symptoms for more than two weeks, contact your doctor so the problem can be diagnosed and treated.

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