Ovarian epithelial cancer




Ovarian epithelial cancer is a subtype of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a cancer that begins in an ovary. It results in abnormal cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. When this process begins, symptoms may be vague or not apparent, but they become more noticeable as the cancer progresses. These symptoms may include bloating, pelvic pain, and abdominal swelling, among others. Common areas to which the cancer may spread include the lining of the abdomen, lining of the bowel and bladder, lymph nodes, lungs, and liver.

The risk of ovarian cancer increases in women who have ovulated more over their lifetime. This includes those who have never had children, those who begin ovulation at a younger age or reach menopause at an older age. Other risk factors include hormone therapy after menopause, fertility medication, and obesity. Factors that decrease risk include hormonal birth control, tubal ligation, and breast feeding. About 10% of cases are related to inherited genetic risk; women with mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have about a 50% chance of developing the disease.


Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvis area
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • A frequent need to urinate


Most cases of ovarian cancer occur sporadically in people with little to no family history of the condition. They are due to random changes (mutations) that occur only in the cells of the ovary. These mutations (called somatic mutations) accumulate during a person's lifetime and are not inherited or passed on to future generations.


People with a significant family history for ovarian cancer are often referred to a genetic counselor to see if they should be tested for BRCA mutation.


Tests that examine the ovaries, pelvic area, blood, and ovarian tissue are used to detect (find) and diagnose ovarian epithelial cancer.

Tests and procedures that may be used include:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Ultrasound
  • CA 125 assay
  • Barium enema
  • Intravenous pyelogram
  • Computed tomography scan
  • Biopsy
  • Surgery (laparotomy).


The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options for ovarian epithelial cancer will depend on:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • The type and size of the tumor
  • The patient's age and general health
  • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).


The best treatment options for ovarian cancer depend on many factors including the subtype and stage of the condition, but may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or targeted therapy (such as monoclonal antibody therapy).

Approved therapy
bevacizumab (Avastin) FDA-approved indication: In combination with paclitaxel, pegylated liposomal doxorubicin, or topotecan for treatment of patients with platinum-resistant, recurrent epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer who received no more than 2 prior chemotherapy regimens