The female reproductive system is made up of several important parts:
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells in and around the ovaries and fallopian tubes. There are many different types of ovarian cancer that are based on the types of cells and tissue that the cancer starts in. 
Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, with almost 300,000 women being diagnosed worldwide in 2018.  It mainly affects women who have already gone through the menopause and half of all ovarian cancers are found in women over 63 years old. 
The reason that some women get ovarian cancer is not completely clear. However, there are some factors that are known to increase the likelihood of a woman developing this disease, called ‘risk factors’. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will definitely get the disease. Some risk factors identified for ovarian cancer are: 
It is difficult to detect ovarian cancer as the symptoms can be mistaken for more common problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Some of the symptoms to watch out for are: 
If your doctor thinks you might have ovarian cancer, they will do a physical examination and will take a blood test to see if you have high levels of a protein called CA125,  which can detect early signs of ovarian cancer. If you have higher levels of the CA125 protein than normal, you may be sent for an ultrasound scan of your abdomen and ovaries to confirm your diagnosis.  Once your diagnosis is confirmed, further tests such as biopsies (where a small sample of the cancer is removed) will be performed to help doctors to understand the type, stage and grade of your ovarian cancer (more information on these can be found below). 
There are several types of ovarian cancer and they look different when viewed under a microscope. This helps doctors to understand what type of cells the cancer is made of, and is sometimes referred to as cancer ‘histology’. There are 3 main types of ovarian cancer: 
The stage of your ovarian cancer describes where the cancer is and how far it has spread into nearby tissues and/or around the body. 
The grade of your ovarian cancer describes how fast it is likely to grow and spread around the body. 
The most common treatments for ovarian cancer are surgery (to remove as much of the cancer as possible) and chemotherapy (to kill cancer cells). Treatment will vary based on the type, stage and grade of your ovarian cancer, depending on what is approved in your country. 
If you have Stage 1 ovarian cancer you may only need surgery. If you have any other stage of cancer you will likely need to have chemotherapy before and/or after surgery. The treatment you are given will be decided on by your doctor based on all of your medical information.
During your surgery, the surgeons will check whether your cancer has spread so that they know if more treatment will be needed after your surgery. They will then try to remove as much cancer as they can to give you the best possible outcome and reduce the likelihood that your cancer will come back after treatment. This may involve removing some of the reproductive organs, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb and cervix. If your cancer has spread to other organs they will also assess the possibility of removing as much cancer from those organs as possible. 
Chemotherapies are drugs that aim to stop cancer cells from growing. You may be given chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells if they cannot be removed with surgery. Chemotherapy may be given as a mixture of drugs as this sometimes works better than one type of chemotherapy on its own. Chemotherapy is given as an infusion into your vein over a few hours. You will need to go to your hospital or clinic regularly to be given chemotherapy treatment, and the exact timing of your visits will be decided by your doctor. 
Depending on the type and stage of your ovarian cancer, and at what point in your treatment you are, you may also be able to have one of the following treatments, depending on what is approved in your country:
There are new treatments being developed for ovarian cancer. Clinical trials investigate these new drugs and compare them with the current therapies already available. If you would like to know more about clinical trials, or are interested in taking part in a clinical trial, please speak to your doctor or visit the clinical trials page on the Roche ForPatients platform (https://forpatients.roche.com/en/faq/what-is-a-clinical-trial.html).
The outlook for ovarian cancer depends on the type, stage and grade of the cancer when it is first diagnosed. [14, 15] Please talk to your doctor about the outlook for your ovarian cancer.