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Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms and Types

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types of ovarian cancers and their symptoms Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Ovarian cancer will affect an estimated 22,280 women in the United States by the end of 2012 and will result in the deaths of around 15,500.

In the U.K. in 2009 there were 6,955 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and the following year there were 4,295 deaths from the disease.

Ovarian cancer is highly fatal due to the fact that symptoms may not become apparent until the cancer has spread, making it more challenging to treat.

However, between 2005-2009, about 43 percent of U.K. women survived their ovarian cancer for five years or more. Doctors are looking at ways in which women may be able to recognize the early warning signs so that they can seek medical treatment earlier.


Symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

• A bloated or painful abdomen

• Pain in the pelvis, back or legs

• Nausea

• Constipation or diarrhea

• Excessive tiredness

• Wanting to urinate very frequently

• Heavier than normal periods

• Bleeding in between periods or bleeding after the menopause

If you have any of these symptoms you should see your doctor. There are often other causes and it may not be cancer but a doctor will be able to rule out the possibility if that is the case.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Epithelial cancer is the most common type and means that cancer is on the surface of the ovaries.

There are different types of epithelial cancer. The most common type is serous while endometrioid and clear cell types are less common.

Other rarer types of ovarian cancer are mucinous or cancers which are unclassifiable.

There are also germ cell tumors. These begin in the germ cells which will develop into ova (human eggs). Unlike epithelial cancer which most often starts in women who are post-menopausal, germ cell cancer often affects younger women.

Types of germ cell cancer

Dermoid cysts are benign and are the most common germ cell tumor. They are frequently seen in young women in their 20s.

Dysgerminoma also commonly affects women in their 20s and is malignant (cancerous), often affecting both ovaries.

Non-dysgerminomatous germ cell cancers are most commonly diagnosed in girls or young women and usually affect one ovary.

The different sub-types are yolk sac tumors, immature teratoma, mixed primitive germ cell tumor, choriocarcinoma gonadoblastoma and embryonal carcinoma. Some of these are very rare.

A related type of cancer is primary peritoneal cancer which behaves like epithelial cancer in that it starts in the membrane that protects the abdominal organs, such as the stomach and liver. It is treated in the same way as ovarian cancer but it can also affect men.

Ovarian cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the tumors (and sometimes one or both ovaries depending on whether the patient wants children), chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


Ovarian Cancer, National Cancer Institute. Web. 18 October 2012.

Ovarian Cancer Statistics, Cancer Research UK. Web. 18 October 2012.

Types of Ovarian Cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support. Web. 18 October 2012.

Germ Cell Tumors of the Ovary (Ovarian Teratoma), Macmillan Cancer Support. Web. 18 October 2012.

Reviewed October 18, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments


Thank you for sharing. Ovarian cancer really is an almost silent disease until its full blown. I appreciate the insight and getting the word out for women to know the possible symptoms.

October 18, 2012 - 11:24am
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