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Ovarian Cancer

Questions to Ask the Doctor

If experiencing abdominal pain, distension, or bloating that is not explained by simple constipation, lactose intolerance, or another harmless condition, the woman should see her health care provider right away. In fact, if she is older than 40 years or has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, these symptoms should be attributed to constipation or other conditions only after her health care provider has ruled out the possibility of ovarian cancer.

A woman should go to the nearest hospital emergency department if she is exhibiting any of the following symptoms:


A woman seen by her health care provider, in an emergency department, or in a clinic who is told that she may have a mass in her ovary should follow up immediately as recommended for more testing. Early detection of ovarian cancer is essential to ensure a better chance for long-term survival and good quality of life.

Following any type of surgery to remove an ovarian mass, detailed instructions on how to care for herself at home along with information regarding appropriate follow-up care are provided to the woman.

If a woman was treated successfully for ovarian cancer, she will need regular physical examinations for the rest of her life and will likely be scheduled to have her CA-125 level checked every 3-4 months.

Even if the ovaries and other pelvic organs are removed, residual cancer may go undetected.

In order to identify recurrent cancer early, the health care provider should schedule regular visits, even if no symptoms are present.


Any factor that prevents ovulation (the release of an egg) seems to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.

  • Taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Pregnancy
  • Starting menstrual cycles later in adolescence
  • Early menopause
  • Tubal ligation (having the tubes tied)

If a woman has a strong family history of ovarian cancer or she knows that she has the BRCA1 gene mutation or HNPCC (Lynch syndrome II), she may want to talk to her health care provider about the possibility of having her ovaries removed after childbearing or after age 35-40 years.

Many of the screening tests available for ovarian cancer do not detect early disease. In fact, the US Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend routine screening because there is no evidence that screening reduces the severity of illness or number of deaths due to ovarian cancer. By itself, each single testing method is imperfect. When used together, however, these tests may contribute to earlier diagnosis.

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