Cancer arises when cells begin to grow out of control. Historically, ovarian cancer was thought to begin in the ovaries, but it is now known that most cases of ovarian cancer begin in the fallopian tube.
Being postmenopausal is a risk factor for ovarian cancer, as is older age. Having a first full-term pregnancy after age 35 or never carrying a pregnancy to term is also associated with a higher risk. Taking estrogen without also taking progesterone for five to 10 years after menopause can also raise risk.
Family history is another important factor. Women with family members who have ovarian, breast, colorectal or certain other cancers, as well as women who have a personal history of breast cancer, may be at higher risk of ovarian cancer. Women who have inherited mutations in specific genes, including BRCA1, BRCA2, BRIP1, RAD51C/D or the Lynch syndrome genes, are at higher risk for ovarian cancer.
Although some women have an inherited risk of ovarian cancer, most ovarian cancers are due to mutations in ovarian, fallopian or peritoneal cells that a woman acquires during her lifetime. The causes of acquired mutations associated with ovarian cancer remain unknown; they may occur by chance over a woman’s lifetime. Study results are not clear about the role of other factors, such as being obese or using
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, feeling full quickly when eating and having to urinate more urgently or more often. Other symptoms include fatigue, back pain, pain during sex, upset stomach, constipation, changes to bleeding during the menstrual period and belly swelling accompanied by weight loss. In many cases, these symptoms do not indicate ovarian cancer. However, if you have any of these symptoms, it is important to get them checked out by a doctor if they are a change from your normal experience or occur more than 12 times in a month.