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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Ovarian / Fallopian Tube Cancer

Gynaecological Oncology MDTOvarian cancer develops in the ovaries or fallopian tubes. The ovaries are the female reproductive glands that produce eggs during a woman's reproductive years, and are located near the opening of the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tubes carry the eggs to the uterus after ovulation. The ovaries also produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Ovarian / Fallopian Tube cancer develops when cells in the ovaries or tubes begin to grow out of control.

The gynaecological cancer experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital use several methods to confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of your disease. They have experience with early-stage as well as complex cancer; have access to advanced diagnostic tools and a wide range of treatments, including clinical trials. At the same time, our supportive clinicians help you manage side effects to support your quality of life. Explore this section to learn more about ovarian cancer, its side effects and your treatment options.

About ovarian / tubal cancer

Ovarian / fallopian tube cancer can develop in different types of cells that make up the ovaries. These include:

  • Surface epithelial cells, which cover the outer surface of the ovaries or fallopian tubes (the most common type of these cancers)
  • Germ cells, which ultimately form eggs
  • Stromal cells, which help hold the ovary together and release oestrogen and progesterone

As mentioned, 90% of these tumours develop in the surface epithelial cells. Cancer in these cells often arises at the end of the fallopian tubes, which are located on each side of the uterus. The eggs travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. Cancer also can develop in the peritoneum, the tissue linking the wall and covering the organs of the abdomen. Ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancer are basically treated the same way.

According to Cancer Council statistics about 1400 Australian women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer. The average age at diagnosis is 63. It is the eighth most common cancer in women in Australia and is more commonly diagnosed in women over 50.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

In most cases, ovarian cancer is not diagnosed until it has progressed to an advanced stage. Generally this is because ovarian cancer symptoms either aren’t apparent in the early stages of the disease or they are often mistaken for other common stomach and digestive issues. Women are more likely to experience symptoms once the disease has spread beyond the ovaries.

Common symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea
  • Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner
  • Pressure in the pelvis or lower back
  • A more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Increased abdominal girth
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Changes in menstruation

If you are concerned, then please check with your general practitioner (GP).

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

If your doctor is concerned that you are exhibiting symptoms of ovarian cancer, then they will probably perform a pelvic exam to feel for lumps or changes in and around the ovaries, and order additional tests if you’ve been experiencing persistent abdominal bloating, discomfort, or other symptoms, or if you have risk factors for this cancer.

There is currently no effective screening test for ovarian cancer. Some of the initial tests that your doctor may request include:

  • Pelvic Ultrasound
  • CT scan

After an initial assessment, they may also request a:

  • PET scan
  • Colonoscopy

If you do have ovarian cancer, surgery is generally used both as part of treatment and to give specialists crucial information about your diagnosis, from the type of tumour you have to its stage (if it has spread and if so, how far). This information helps your team of specialists decide which treatments are best for you.

A cancer diagnosis can be extremely upsetting and the San’s multidisciplinary team includes support services to assist you through your cancer experience as well as provide the best possible treatment plan for you.

What are my treatment options for ovarian cancer?

The main treatments for ovarian cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. These treatments may be used on their own, or in combination.

After learning that you have ovarian cancer, the San’s Gynaecological Oncology MDT will meet to discuss your diagnosis and together determine the best treatment plan for you and your cancer. It will be tailored specifically for you based on a range of factors including the type of ovarian cancer you have, the stage of the cancer, your general health and fitness, your doctors’ recommendations, and whether you wish to have children.

The San’s cancer support services are also available to help provide guidance and emotional support to you and your family.

Resources and useful ovarian cancer links
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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services