Ovarian Cancer | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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Young woman with ovarian cancer at Miami Cancer Institute

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer, which can include cancers in the tissues that cover the ovaries, the egg cells within them or the fallopian tubes, is the second-most common type of gynecological cancer and the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States.

There are several types of ovarian cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers originate in the epithelial cells, the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary. Other types of ovarian cancer include germ cell tumors, which start in the egg cells of the ovary; and stromal cell tumors, which are found within the tissue that holds the ovary together and produces the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

What causes ovarian cancer?

In most cases doctors don’t know why cancer develops in the ovaries. There are some risk factors that can increase a woman’s chances of getting ovarian cancer; however, some women with multiple risk factors never get the disease. Risk factors include aging and obesity, having gone through menopause, and having a family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer. Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are also at higher risk.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Every patient experiences symptoms differently. Many women may not have many symptoms until the cancer is quite advanced. The most common symptoms are:

  • Abdominal swelling or bloating with or without pain or discomfort
  • A feeling of fullness or trouble eating
  • Urinary problems, including a sense of urgency or frequent urination
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To diagnose ovarian cancer, your doctor will order a number of tests. They will help your physician get a full understanding of your cancer, and by analyzing these tests, your team will be able to develop a treatment plan customized for you.

Some of the most common tests are:

  • A physical exam, including a pelvic exam, and blood tests that look for high levels of certain proteins considered to be tumor markers
  • Imaging studies such as ultrasound, CT and PET scans
  • Biopsy, whereby your doctor collects tissue from the tumor. Doctors grade or stage ovarian cancer based on the stage it is in, from I, which means it is limited to one or both ovaries, to IV, which is the most advanced and means the cancer has spread beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body. 

The healthcare team at Miami Cancer Institute will explain your test results and talk with you about your treatment options.

Every person is different, and even though two patients may have the same diagnosis, they may have very different treatment. Your plan will depend on many factors, including the type of ovarian cancer you have, its growth, your age and your overall health. At Miami Cancer Institute, your comprehensive care involves numerous specialists. You may see several physicians, gynecologic oncologists, oncologists, surgeons and radiation experts, as well as nurses, dietitians, therapists and social workers. We understand that this can be a confusing and stressful time for you and your family, and we are here to help.

Treatments may include (alone or in combination):

  • Surgery​ – the removal of one or both ovaries and/or the uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix. During surgery, physicians “debulk” the tumor, or remove as much of it as possible, so that chemotherapy can better penetrate the tumor. If you are of childbearing age, physicians will discuss your options for retaining your fertility.
  • Robotic surgery – Miami Cancer Institute specialists are considered experts in minimally invasive robotic surgery. Exciting advances have been made in recent years in the area of robotics and ovarian cancer. If you are a candidate for robotic surgery, your healthcare team will provide you with additional information.
  • Chemotherapy – Patients with ovarian cancer often receive a mixture of several different chemotherapy drugs. Some are given orally, while others are injected into a vein via an IV. In addition, intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy is delivered via a tiny tube directly into the abdomen. The tube is placed during surgery.
  • Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) – Robotic surgeons at Miami Cancer Institute are also using HIPEC for some patients with a recurrence of their cancer. During surgery, chemo drugs are heated and delivered directly to the site.
  • Targeted therapies, in which specific drugs work to target the tumor
  • Clinical trials – Each day, researchers are working to develop new treatment options. Your healthcare team will discuss whether or not a clinical trial is right for you.

Every patient and every cancer is different so prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from person to person. Long-term follow-up care is important. The healthcare team at Miami Cancer Institute will work closely with you and your family to develop the best treatment plan.