Get the opinion of a specialist.
While it is a rare cancer, ovarian cancer is one not easily detected in its early stages. It can prove to be a devastating cancer because it’s often in an advanced stage when it comes to light. Holden is one of Iowa’s only centers where you are treated by board-certified specialists in gynecologic oncology. Holden’s resources include the complex blood tests and imaging techniques for detecting ovarian cancer and the highly individualized treatments that apply optimal therapy to your condition.
You’ll benefit from learning more about ovarian cancer.
- There are more than 30 ovarian cancer types.
The ovaries are the part of the female reproductive system where eggs and female hormones are produced.
All of the more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer are classified by the type of cell where they start. Three common cell types can be the starting sites for both cancerous and non-cancerous ovarian tumors.
- Surface epithelium – cells covering the outer lining of the ovaries
- Germ cells – the beginnings of egg cells
- Stromal cells – cells that release hormones and connect structures within the ovaries
- Screening is recommended only for those at risk.
Relatively simple screening measures—like a Pap smear for cervical cancer—aren’t available for ovarian cancer. Screenings that are done poorly can result in false positives, which may subject the patient to risky, unnecessary surgeries. Screening is recommended generally only for women who are at risk due to family history of the disease.
Approximately one in 60 American women will develop ovarian cancer. Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women age 60 and older, though the disease can affect younger women.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- Family history of the disease
- Genetic changes in the BRCA1, BRCA2, or other genes
- Taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause
Certain conditions actually lower the risk of this disease. These include:
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Having surgery to close both fallopian tubes
- Having surgery to remove one or both fallopian tubes
- Having given birth to one or more children
- Having breastfed an infant
Some women, who have a high risk of ovarian cancer, including the inherited changes to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, elect to have a surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Symptoms may not be noticed at first.
Symptoms for ovarian cancer can be pretty general, so patients might not recognize them as signs of something serious. Symptoms include:
- A heavy feeling in the pelvis
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Bleeding or other unusual discharge from the vagina
- Weight gain or loss
- Unexplained back pain
- Gas, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Diagnosis is staged based on the cancer’s spread.
An ovarian cancer diagnosis usually includes a description of the stage of the cancer.
- Stage I – cancer is confined to the ovary or fallopian tube
- Stage II – cancer involves one or both ovaries and some of the surrounding pelvic region
- Stage III – the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries and pelvis to other parts within the abdomen
- Stage IV – the cancer growth is widely spread throughout the body, and may involve the lungs, liver, or spleen
- Treatment is precise and based on you.
Depending on the makeup of the cancer, treatment may include
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy (less common)
The precision medicine practiced at Holden takes into account an individual’s tumor, genes, environment, and lifestyle to diagnose and treat their specific type of cancer.
We have services that set us apart from the rest.
- Team of five gynecologic oncologists, meaning you’ll have shorter wait times, more experience, and the knowledge and input from more specialists. We are one of only two cancer centers in the state where patients are treated by board-certified gynecological oncologists.
- Minimally invasive and robotic surgery for certain gynecologic cancers means
- Enhanced precision for the surgeon
- Faster recovery
- Less pain for the patient
- Small incisions
- Our clinical trials give you access to the most recent, advanced treatment options. This may include drugs not yet on the market and other treatments under development that have the potential to increase survival rates and improve quality of life.
- You may undergo genetic testing to see if you carry the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, which if found, would significantly increase your risk for developing ovarian or breast cancer, or help guide treatments for your disease.
- We look at the genetics of your cancer cells to find the treatment that will work best for you.
“Our hope and prayer is that others in our family will be able to eliminate hereditary cancers as well.”
Meet your team of specialists.
Obstetrics and Gynecology Physicians
Radiation Oncology Physician
Licensed Genetic Counselor
Cancer Care Clinics
Clinical Cancer Center21602 Pomerantz Family Pavilion (PFP)
Elevator M, Level 1