By: Lyuba Levine, MD, FACOG, FSGO
DHR Health Oncology Institute

Ovarian cancer occurs 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 ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. This cancer mainly develops in older women. About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older and it is more common in White women than Black women.

The American Cancer Society calculations for ovarian cancer in the United States for 2023 are:

  • About 19,710 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
  • About 13,270 women will die from ovarian cancer.

Risk is increased by about 70% among women with a first degree relative with a history of breast cancer. Almost 40% of ovarian cancer cases in women with a family history are due to mutations in the cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. In addition to BRCA1 and BRCA2, other gene mutations that affect ovarian cancer risk to varying degrees continue to be identified. There are also more common gene mutations that increase risk only slightly, but may account for a substantial number of cancer cases because of their prevalence in the population

As a result, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women with this family history be referred for genetic counseling and evaluation that can be provided at DHR Health.

The rate at which women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer has been slowly falling over the past 20 years. The incidence rate declined by 1% to 2% per year from 1990 to the mid-2010s and by almost 3% per year from 2015 to 2019. This trend is likely due at least in part to increased oral contraceptive use in the latter half of the past century and decreased menopausal hormone therapy use during the 2000s, both of which can lower risk.

When ovarian cancer first develops, it might not cause any noticeable symptoms. Ovarian cancer symptoms are often attributed to other, more common conditions such as indigestion. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • A frequent need to urinate

Because the symptoms are often vague, ovarian cancer is in many instances diagnosed at a later stage, when it’s harder to treat. Roughly 4 out of 5 women are diagnosed at a late stage. It’s important for women to be aware of their body and be on the lookout for changes that might be symptoms of ovarian cancer. These symptoms do not always mean that one has ovarian cancer, but it is a good idea to discuss them with a health care provider if the symptoms are new or last more than a few weeks.

DHR has specialists in Gynecologic Oncology, Oncology and Interventional Radiology serving patients in the south Texas region. Our commitment to this profession ensures that the patients receive the expert care they deserve along with cutting-edge technology, such as robotic surgery, at DHR Health’s Women’s Hospital.

In an effort to provide the highest standard of care I have received over 15 years of extensive training in Robotic surgery. This state of the art technology offers enhanced precision and minimally invasive techniques, resulting in faster recovery times, reduced pain, and improved outcomes. My utilization of robotic surgery at DHR Health Women’s Hospital brings immense benefits to my patients such as reduced blood loss, precise cancer removal and shorter hospital stay.

If you or a loved one has any questions or concerns regarding ovarian cancer, please call the DHR Health Oncology Institute at 956-362-2250.