Ovarian Cancer:
What Should I Know?

Ovarian cancer is a serious disease—you should be educated on what causes this type of cancer and what to look for.

Not real patients.


What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cells in the ovaries grow out of control and form tumors. Type, subtype, stage, and grade are just a few ways to classify ovarian cancer.


Type and subtype refer to where the first tumor is formed. Knowing this can help healthcare professionals identify specific characteristics that define the cancer. The 3 types of ovarian cancer are epithelial, germ cell, and stromal.

Ovarian Cancer Types and Subtypes

Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma

Epithelial ovarian carcinoma originates in the tissue that surrounds the ovaries. This is the most common type of ovarian cancer, accounting for almost 90% of diagnoses.

Subtypes: Serous, Mucinous, Endometrioid, Clear Cell

Germ Cell Tumors

Germ cell tumors start from the cells that produce the eggs. Most of these tumors are benign, but a small number are cancerous.

Subtypes: Dysgerminoma, Endodermal Sinus (Yolk Sac), Choriocarcinoma, Teratoma

Stromal Cell Tumors

Stromal cell tumors develop from tissues that hold the ovary together and those that produce hormones. These types of tumors are rare and can cause vaginal bleeding. Stromal tumors are often found at an early stage, with more than 75% of women surviving long term.

Subtypes: Granulosa Cell, Granulosa-Theca, Thecoma, Fibroma, Sertoli-Leydig Cell


The stage of the cancer refers to how far it has spread from the ovary to other parts of the body. Ovarian cancer is divided into 4 stages. Staging is an important part of the process because accurate staging can help determine treatment.

Stage One Icon

The cancer is limited to 1 or both ovaries.

Stage Two Icon

The cancer has spread outside the ovaries and is growing in the pelvis.

Stage Three Icon

The cancer has spread or grown into nearby organs in the pelvis or spread to the pelvic and/or para-aortic lymph nodes.

Stage Four Icon

The cancer has spread to more distant organs, such as the liver and lungs. It is important to know that if the cancer appears on the surface of the liver only, and not inside the liver, it is still considered stage III.



Grade is a way to describe the look of cancer cells when compared with normal cells.

Grade 1:
Low-grade tumors

Cells look similar to normal cells and tend to have a better outlook.

Grade 2:
Intermediate-grade tumors

Cells look and act somewhere in between Grade 1 and Grade 3.

Grade 3:
High-grade tumors

Cells look less normal and usually have a worse outlook.


Who can get ovarian cancer?

All women have some risk of developing ovarian cancer during their lifetime. This year alone, over 19,000 women will learn that they have ovarian cancer. Certain women may have high-risk factors, such as inherited mutations or a family history of ovarian cancer.

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose. Screening tests, such as ultrasounds and computed tomography (CT) scans, may show masses around the pelvis, which can suggest ovarian cancer. Removing part of the tumor for testing is the only way to diagnose ovarian cancer.

Can early diagnosis lead to better outcomes?

Finding ovarian cancer before it spreads is critical—when found early, about 94% of women live longer than 5 years after diagnosis. While there are currently no effective screening tests for ovarian cancer, there are scientific studies in progress to help determine ways to detect ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer signs and symptoms

When ovarian cancer causes symptoms, they tend to be symptoms that are more commonly caused by other things, so early detection may be difficult.

Signs and symptoms can include:

Abdominal Bloating or Swelling

Abdominal bloating or swelling

Pelvic Pain or Discomfort

Pelvic pain or discomfort

Changes in Bowel Habits, Such as Constipation


A Frequent Need to Urinate

A frequent or urgent need to urinate

Changes in period may occur such as heavier than normal or irregular bleeding

Changes in period may occur such as heavier than normal or irregular bleeding

Pain during sex

Pain during sex

Persistent Indigestion, Bloating, or Nausea

Upset stomach

Back Pain

Back pain

Trouble Eating or Feeling Full Quickly

Trouble eating or feeling full quickly