Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply out of control and form a tumor. 

If left untreated, the tumor can spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastatic ovarian cancer.

The ovaries are two female reproductive glands that produce ova, or eggs. They also produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian cancer often has warning signs, but the earliest symptoms are vague and easy to dismiss.

Over twenty percent of ovarian cancers are detected at an early stage.

Ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer

Symptoms & Signs

Ovarian cancer may not cause any specific signs or symptoms, particularly in its early stages.

When it does cause symptoms, these may be nonspecific and vague.

Symptoms and signs can include:

  • abdominal fullness,
  • early satiety (feeling full early),
  • changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • clothes not fitting well.

Other signs and symptoms can include

Because the symptoms can be very subtle or vague,

Affected women may not be diagnosed immediately because the condition is not suspected at first.

Causes of ovarian cancer

The following risk factors are linked to a higher chance of developing the disease:

Family history

Women with close relatives who have had ovarian cancer have a higher risk of developing it compared with other women.


Most cases of ovarian cancer occur after menopause, and especially in women aged over 63 years. It is rare before the age of 40 years.

Reproductive history

Women who have had one or more full-term pregnancies, especially before the age of 26 years, have a lower risk

Women who have had one or more full-term pregnancies, especially before the age of 26 years, have a lower risk

Birth control

Using the contraceptive pill for at least 3 to 6 months appears to reduce the risk. The longer the pill is used, the lower the risk appears to be.

Obesity and overweight

Obesity and also overweight appear to increase the risk of developing many cancers.

Ovarian cancer is more common in women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.


Women who develop endometriosis have an around 30 percent higher risk of developing cancer, compared with other women.

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