Our cancer team is available 24/7 to help you find a specialist and answer your questions.
A team-based approach to education, support, and treatment for ovarian cancer.
We take a collaborative approach to treat ovarian cancer. This approach allows us to perform surgeries for patients from across the region right here in Metro Detroit.
Our doctors work with geneticists to identify hereditary cancer risks in families. For surgical treatment, our women’s cancer surgeons work with liver, chest, and other specialized surgeons if the cancer has spread.
Our gynecologic cancer team will work with you to personalize a treatment plan for you. We want you to get back to your family and routine as soon -- and as healthy -- as possible.
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer occurs when cancer cells or tumors form on or around the ovaries. The ovaries are the small organs on either side of the uterus that store eggs and produce the female hormones progesterone and estrogen.
There are five types of ovarian cancer. The most common is epithelial carcinoma, when cancer forms on the cells covering the surface of the ovary. The other types are germ cell tumors, stromal tumors, metastatic tumors, and sarcoma.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer symptoms can range from not noticeable to quite painful. They often occur in later stages of the disease and are easily mistaken for gastrointestinal issues or other gynecological conditions.
Symptoms may include:
- Changes in bowel habits
- Feeling continually full
- Lower abdominal pain
- Weight changes
If you have any of these symptoms, schedule a visit to the doctor. Ovarian cancer is easiest to treat when it is detected and diagnosed at an early stage.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer
The exact cause of ovarian cancer is not known. Ovarian cancer can occur at any time in adult women, but often is found in postmenopausal women.
We do know that family history is important. Women whose mothers, sisters, or other close relatives have had ovarian or breast cancer are at higher risk for developing the disease.
Other factors that may increase your risk include:
- Being 50 to 75 years old
- Being Caucasian (white)
- Giving birth after the age of 35
- Never giving birth
- Having a family history, including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, or colon cancer
Minimize your risk for ovarian cancer with regular pelvic exams. Discuss your family history with your doctor, who may recommend that certain tests be performed regularly.
Genetic testing for ovarian cancer
Cancer can be caused by changes in genes that are passed down from generation to generation. These are called hereditary cancers. Only 5 to 10 percent of cancer cases are caused by genetics. The rest are random occurrences or caused by environmental factors, such as smoking.
It is estimated that 10 percent of ovarian cancers are caused by inherited changes in cancer-sensitive genes. Since these genes were discovered, it’s now possible to offer some families genetic testing for specific cancers, including ovarian cancer.
Genetic testing involves looking at a person’s genetic material (DNA) for changes related to an increased risk of certain cancers. This testing may show if the cancer risk in a family is hereditary.
Ovarian cancer treatment
Before treatment begins, we will assess the stage of your cancer. This helps the doctor determine the most effective course of treatment for you.
We classify the stages of ovarian cancer as follows:
- Stage I: Cancer is inside one or both ovaries or one or both fallopian tubes and is not on the outside surface.
- Stage II: Cancer is inside one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and has spread to surrounding organs, such as the rectum, bladder, uterus, or sigmoid colon.
- Stage III: Cancer is inside one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and has spread to surrounding organs and the lymph nodes or lining of the abdomen.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the spleen, lungs, liver, or other organs outside the abdominal area.
Often surgery is the most important initial step in treating ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer surgery is complex. Along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes, the doctor may need to remove lymph nodes in the spleen, the bowel diaphragm, and binding tissues in the abdomen. We use special technologies to vaporize the tumor and remove any that we find during surgery.
Chemotherapy often is used before or after surgery, and sometimes radiation therapy as well. Depending on your condition, the doctor may recommend intraperitoneal chemotherapy. We’ll administer chemotherapy directly into the abdomen to bathe the cancer cells in the drug, which can increase its effectiveness.
Your doctor will discuss these options with you and help you decide which ovarian cancer treatment or treatments will work best for your type and stage of cancer. We’ll provide you with the education and support you need to enter treatment and recovery with confidence.