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Ovarian cancer is cancer that begins in the ovaries, which are almond-sized female reproductive organs that produce eggs and the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Cancer can also start in the related areas of the fallopian tubes and the peritoneum and spread to the ovaries.1

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women.2,3

  • Ovarian cancer is cancer that forms in the ovaries, the fallopian tubes or the peritoneum.1 Women have two ovaries that are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and make female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Women also have two fallopian tubes which are long, slender tubes on each side of the uterus. Eggs pass from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. The peritoneum is the tissue lining that covers organs in the abdomen.1

  • The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known. However, there are several known risk factors that may increase your chances of developing ovarian cancer. These risk factors include:4

    • Older age. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause.
    • Obesity. Being obese may also impact overall survival.
    • Have never given birth or had trouble getting pregnant.
    • Hormone replacement therapy. Women who take estrogen alone or with progesterone after menopause have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who have never used hormones.
    • Family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer. Your ovarian cancer risk is increased if your mother, sister, or daughter has (or has had) ovarian cancer. The risk also gets higher the more relatives you have with ovarian cancer. Increased risk for ovarian cancer can also come from your father's side.
    • Family history of a genetic mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or one associated with Lynch syndrome.
    • Have an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background.
    • Have endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body).
  • Signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:5

    • Vaginal bleeding (particularly if you are past menopause), or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you.
    • Pain or pressure in the pelvic area.
    • Abdominal or back pain.
    • Bloating.
    • Feeling full too quickly, or difficulty eating.
    • A change in your bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation.
  • There is no single or reliable screening test for ovarian cancer.6 To diagnose ovarian cancer, healthcare providers may perform one or more tests. They may include a physical exam, a pelvic exam, lab tests, ultrasound, or a biopsy.6,7

  • Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.8

Ovarian Cancer is a focus of our Oncology Therapeutic Area.

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