Awareness: September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month



What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is cancer that begins in the ovaries. Ovaries are reproductive glands found only in women. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) for reproduction. The eggs travel through the fallopian tubes into the uterus where the fertilized egg implants and develops into a fetus. The ovaries are also the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. One ovary is located on each side of the uterus in the pelvis.

What are the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Early cancers of the ovaries tend to cause somewhat vague symptoms. These symptoms might include:

  • Swelling of the stomach (abdomen) or bloating caused by a build-up of fluid or a tumor
  • Pelvic pressure or stomach pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Having to urinate often or feeling like you have to go right away

Most of these symptoms can also be caused by problems other than cancer. When these symptoms are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to go on and are a change from normal -- for example, they happen more often or get worse. If you have symptoms that you can't explain nearly every day for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor right away.

Screening tests and exams are used to find a disease such as cancer in people who don't have any symptoms. Women with a very high risk of ovarian cancer (such as those with a strong family history of the disease) may be screened with ultrasound and with blood tests. But early studies of women at average risk of ovarian cancer show that these tests did not lower the number of deaths caused by ovarian cancer. For this reason, these tests are not used for routine screening of women who don't have strong risk factors.

Women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread beyond the ovaries. Also, some types of ovarian cancer can quickly spread to the surface of nearby organs. Still, dealing with symptoms right away can improve the odds of finding the cancer early and treating it with success.

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include those listed below. But these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than ovarian cancer.

  • Tiredness
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual changes

Please visit the American Cancer Society web site for additional information on Ovarian Cancer.


  • Purdue University Center for Cancer Research
    Hansen Life Sciences Research Building
    201 S. University Street
    West Lafayette, IN 47907-2064

  • Phone: (765) 494-9129
    Fax: (765) 494-9193
    Contact us with questions at:

© Copyright 2014 The Purdue University Center for Cancer Research is the first NCI funded Center in Indiana.