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Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the ovaries. The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female pelvis that produce eggs and female hormones.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case ovarian cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue called a tumor forms. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not spread.

There are several cancers and several more benign tumors that may occur in the ovaries. Most cancers are called epithelial cell tumors, which are the focus of this article. These tumors may grow to a considerable size before they cause severe symptoms. Malignant ovarian tumors may spread by shedding cells into the peritoneal cavity, which then causes metastasis throughout the abdomen—making these tumors difficult to treat. Early detection is very important to help prevent the cancer from spreading.

Cancerous Mass in the Left Ovary


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What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?
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References:

Kasper DL, Harrison TR. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

Ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003130-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2014.

Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900705/Ovarian-cancer. Updated May 6, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.

Ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian. Accessed January 3, 2014.



Last reviewed December 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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