Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common type of cancer in women, with 58% of cases occurring in developing countries.
There are 239,000 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed worldwide each year, and 152,000 deaths annually. In the United States, 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed, with 14,000 deaths each year.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly cancers because it is largely symptomless and rarely diagnosed before it has spread extensively.1 Symptoms may include bloating, pelvic pain, and abdominal swelling, among others, but these symptoms are shared with a number of other conditions.2 Ovarian cancer commonly spreads to the lining of the abdomen, local lymph nodes, lungs, and liver.3
In 2012, there were 239,000 cases of ovarian cancer and 152,000 deaths worldwide. Ovarian cancer is the seventh-most common cancer and the eighth-most common cause of death from cancer in women. Ovarian cancer is more common in the developed world than in the developing world.4 There are approximately 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer annually in the US and approximately 14,000 deaths. The overall five-year survival rate in the United States is 45%.5
The risk of ovarian cancer is increased by factors that increase ovulation and obesity.1,6 The risk is decreased by factors that reduce ovulation.6 About 10% of cases are related to inherited genetic risk, and individuals who inherit mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have about a 50% chance of developing the disease.
95% of ovarian cancers are ovarian carcinomas. There are five main subtypes of ovarian carcinoma. The most common subtype is high-grade serous, which accounts for 70% of ovarian carcinomas. Of the remaining 30% of ovarian carcinomas, approximate one third are unclassified (10% or total), and another third are classified as mucinous. 5% of all ovarian carcinomas are classified as endometrioid, and about 3% are classified as clear cell.7
Most of the risk factors for ovarian cancer are hormonal in nature. Ovarian cancer is associated with increased age, family history of ovarian cancer, abdominal pain or distension postmenopausal bleeding and appetite loss.8 Hereditary forms of ovarian cancer can be caused by mutations in specific genes (most notably BRCA1 and BRCA2, but also in genes for hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome). In addition to these hereditary factors, a large number of genetic mutations have been associated with one or more of the sub-types of ovarian cancer. These genes are mostly associated with the regulation of cell division and the cell cycle.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are frequently absent in early stages and when do appear, they can be easily mistaken for other disorders and may persist for several months or even years before being recognized and diagnosed. Most typical symptoms include bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain or discomfort, difficulty eating, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, early satiety, and possibly urinary symptoms.
The treatment of ovarian cancer usually begins with surgery, will generally include chemotherapy and may include radiation therapy. The specific course of treatment will be based the type of ovarian cancer and the extent to which it has spread. These factors will also weigh heavily on the outcome.