Ovarian Cancer


Mercy is a leader in diagnosing and treating gynecologic cancers, including all stages and types of ovarian cancer. We’ll provide you with the best care possible, and our team of cancer experts is here to help design a treatment plan based on your needs.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 65 or older. Though this type of cancer is more dangerous than other reproductive cancers, we can help detect ovarian cancer early for improved chances of recovery.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Ovaries contain three different types of cells, which can become three types of ovarian cancer.

Epithelial Cells

Epithelial cells are found in the outer layer of the ovaries. Tumors that form from these cells are called epithelial tumors, and they are the most common form of ovarian cancer.

Germ Cells

Germ cells form eggs inside the ovaries. Germ cell ovarian cancer is rare, and many of the tumors that form in germ cells are benign.

Stromal Cells

Stromal cells make up the tissue inside the ovaries and produce hormones. Stromal cell cancer is another rare form of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Causes & Risk Factors

There are several factors that can raise the risk of ovarian cancer. The most common ovarian cancer risk factors fall into two categories: controllable and non-controllable.

Non-controllable Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors for ovarian cancer are non-controllable, meaning they’re linked to genetics or other factors outside of your control. Some non-controllable factors include:

Family History of Cancer 

Women who have relatives with ovarian cancer are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer themselves. This is especially true for direct relatives including mothers, sisters and/or daughters. Additionally, those with a family history of other types of cancer are at a higher risk. This might include colon, rectal, pancreas or breast cancer. Having relatives with cancer may raise the risk due to an inherited gene mutation.

Inherited Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene

Both of these genes are linked to a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Some women choose to have genetic testing for inherited gene mutations.


Ovarian cancer is most often found in women who are over age 65, and few women under 40 are diagnosed with this cancer.


Women with endometriosis have a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer than those without this condition, though treatment for endometriosis can reduce this risk.

Controllable Risk Factors

Other risk factors for ovarian cancer are controllable, as they are part of your lifestyle and health choices. Some controllable risk factors include:


Obesity can increase the risk of getting many kinds of cancer, including ovarian cancer.

Reproductive History

Having a child later in life or never carrying a pregnancy to term can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Fertility Treatment

In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments have not been proven to increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but some studies have shown that there is a slight chance of borderline ovarian cancer with IVF.

Hormone Therapy

Women who take hormones to improve symptoms of menopause may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

In the early stages of ovarian cancer, you may not notice any symptoms. The symptoms you do feel might seem to be unrelated to cancer, such as abdominal bloating, feeling full quickly or a frequent need to urinate. However, stronger symptoms can mean that ovarian cancer is advanced. This is why frequent screening is so important.

Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Bloating (gas, indigestion, cramps)
  • Feeling full, even after a light meal, or having difficulty eating
  • Frequent urination or frequently feeling the need to urinate
  • Abdominal swelling with weight loss
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Back pain, especially lower back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Menstrual changes

Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Ovarian cancer can be prevented only by removing the ovaries, but you can help lower your risk by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a low-fat diet
  • Taking birth control pills for at least three months – the risk is lower the longer the contraceptives are taken, and the lower risk continues for many years after you stop taking them
  • Having a child – Childbirth can lower your risk of ovarian cancer
  • Discussing hormone replacement therapy with your doctor
Diagnosis & Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

If you’re experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer, it can be overwhelming. Mercy's expert care teams have the knowledge and advanced technology to diagnose and treat your cancer.

Learn about ovarian cancer diagnosis & treatment options.

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