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Cancer of the Ovary

A close-up photograph of  a piece of equipment in the Stour Centre.

The ovaries
The ovaries are two small egg-shaped organs within the female reproductive system. During a woman’s fertile years they produce eggs which, if fertilised, develop into a baby. If not, the egg and the lining of the womb are shed during a period. The ovaries also produce hormones which, once the woman reaches the menopause or ‘change’, will gradually decrease and cause the periods to stop.

The lymph glands
Near to the uterus and ovaries is a group of nodules called lymph glands. These glands carry a clear fluid around the body which filters out bacteria and debris.

The omentum
The omentum is a fatty layer of tissue which covers the bowels in the abdomen. It acts in the same way as the lymph glands by filtering out abnormal cells.

Cancer of the ovaries
Ovarian cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of the cells of the ovaries. The cells grow out of control and develop into a lump or tumour. Sometimes the abnormal cells spread to other organs such as the uterus, bladder or bowels. Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and many women have no symptoms until the disease is well established. Ovarian cancer often has no known cause, although it is often more common in women who have not had children. Some protection from ovarian cancer has been found in women who have taken the oral contraceptive pill. It is also possible that a woman with a female relative who has had ovarian or breast cancer may be at an increased risk.

What types of treatments are used?
Surgery is usually the first treatment you will receive and aims to remove the affected ovaries. However it may also be necessary to perform a hysterectomy or surgery to the bladder or bowel. These are necessary if the cancer has spread outside the ovary.

Chemotherapy It is common to start chemotherapy two weeks after surgery. However in a small number of women chemo-therapy may be required before an operation can be carried out, to make surgery more successful.

Radiotherapy is used less commonly in ovarian cancer.

Hormones are usually commenced after surgery.