Ovarian Cancer is a Type of Cancer That Begins in the Ovaries

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. Ovaries are female reproductive organs that produce eggs and hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer affects roughly 22,400 women every year in the United States. When it is caught early, it can be effectively treated. Older women are more likely to get ovarian cancer. While it is the fifth most common cancer in women, its rates have been decreasing for over 20 years.


The Gynecologic Oncology department at Penn State Cancer Institute provides comprehensive care for women with pelvic malignancies, including ovarian cancer. 

We are also a major site for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored Gynecologic Oncology Group. This helps us deliver the latest advances in care. 

Our comprehensive services include:

  • Treating cancer, including vaginal, cervical, uterine, fallopian tube and ovarian cancers. Our expertise includes:
    • Chemotherapy
    • Investigational therapies
    • Collaborative treatment plans with local oncologists for chemotherapy, radiation and follow-up treatment
  • Evaluating and treating many gynecological conditions, including:
    • Vulva, vaginal or cervical dysplasia
    • Pelvic masses
    • Abnormal uterine bleeding
    • Endometrial hyperplasia
  • Gynecologic surgery, including medically compromised, or surgically challenging cases
  • Evaluating abnormal or difficult-to-read pap results
  • Second opinions

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Ovarian cancer is cancer that starts in the ovaries. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs that produce eggs.


There are often no early signs of ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society lists common symptoms of ovarian cancer as:

  • Feeling full quickly
  • Trouble urinating, including always feeling like you have to go or having to go often
  • Pelvic or stomach pain
  • Bloating

You should see a doctor if you have the symptoms listed above, or any other questions or concerns about your health.


Your doctor will ask you detailed questions about your personal and family medical history, and do a complete exam to check for signs of ovarian cancer. Additional tests may also be ordered, including blood tests or an ultrasound.

If results from any of these tests or exams are unusual, you will be referred to a specialist called a gynecologic oncologist. The American Cancer Society states that research has shown that being treated by a gynecologic oncologist has been shown to help patients with ovarian cancer live longer.

Your gynecologic oncologist may order more tests to get a complete picture of your ovarian cancer. The information from these tests will help your doctor create a treatment plan that is right for you.

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