Ovarian Cancer: A Guide for Patients

Guides for Patients are designed to assist patients, their relatives and caregivers to better understand the nature of different types of cancer and evaluate the best available treatment choices.

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that forms in ovarian tissues. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs in which the egg cells are formed and female hormones are produced. Ovarian cancers either arise from a thin layer of cells in the surface of the ovary or from the fallopian tube epithelium - a form called epithelial ovarian cancer, which is also the most frequent type of ovarian cancer, or from other tissues within the ovary (non‐epithelial ovarian cancer). Both terms refer to a diverse group of different ovarian cancer subtypes.

This guide focuses exclusively on epithelial ovarian cancer. There are four main histological subtypes of epithelial ovarian cancer (serous carcinoma, mucinous, endometrioid and clear-cell cancers).

Beyond a definition of ovarian cancer, in this guide you will also find answers to questions such as:

  • How common is epithelial ovarian cancer?
  • What causes ovarian cancer?
  • How is epithelial ovarian cancer diagnosed?
  • How will my treatment be determined?
  • What are the treatment options for epithelial ovarian cancer?
  • What are the possible side effects of the treatment?
  • What happens after my treatment has finished?
  • Support groups

This guide has been prepared to help you, your friends and your family better understand the nature of ovarian cancer and the treatments that are available. The medical information described in this document is based on ESMO clinical practice guidelines for newly diagnosed and relapsed epithelial ovarian cancer. We recommend that you ask your doctor about the tests and types of treatments available in your country for your type and stage of ovarian cancer.

Published in 2017.