Ovaries are female reproductive organs. They are located in the pelvic area, both on either
sides of another reproductive organ, uterus. Epithelial ovarian cancer is a type of cancer
where tumors are formed in the tissues that form the outer covering of the ovaries. However,
all these tumors are not cancerous. Most of them are benign or non cancerous. It is one of
the most common types of cancer and probably the most dangerous among all types of
ovarian cancers. Out of about 30 variants of ovarian cancer, epithelial ovarian cancer
accounts for more than 85 percent of it. Epithelial ovarian cancer has also various sub-types
and the signs, symptoms and treatment for each of them may be different.
Causes of epithelial ovarian cancer
1. Family History Of Ovarian Cancer
The chances of occurrence or the risk of ovarian cancer is high in women who have family
history of such cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer is usually sporadic and is associated with
family history of similar instances. Women with a family history or pattern of inheritance of
ovarian cancer are at higher risk than women who have no history of this disease. In fact, the
component of family history increases the risk by about 10 percent.
DNA mismatch and hereditary gene mutation like BRCA1 and BRCA2 increases the potential
risk of breast cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer in women. Although, a family history of
ovarian cancer or breast cancer increases the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer, the DNA
mutations associated with the disease are usually not inherited, but acquired during a woman’s
life through exposure to chemicals that cause cancer or by radiation. Chromosomal study and
analysis of the genetic structure can help in understanding the mutation of genes better.
3. Breast Cancer
Women diagnosed with breast cancer previously may be diagnosed with epithelial cancer.
Infertility also increases the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. This is irrespective of whether a
woman was using fertility drugs or undergoing any hormone therapy, or was using none of
5. Use Of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Women experience symptoms like vaginal dryness, night sweats, hot flashes, poor sex drive
due to menopause, may be prescribed hormone replacement therapy by their doctors.
Women undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy or hormone therapy after menopause are
prone to the risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer. Prolonged use of estrogen for more
than 5 years increases the risk.
The Signs And Symptoms Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
The signs and symptoms of epithelial ovarian cancer are similar to peritoneal cancer or cancer
of the fallopian tube. However, these signs and symptoms may not show up immediately.
Therefore, in about 70 percent cases, women suffering from epithelial ovarian cancer are not
diagnosed at the earlier stages. Due to this, epithelial ovarian cancer is also regarded as a
silent killer. Sometimes the tumors are so covert that they do not seem to be cancerous under
a microscope. They are usually considered to be with borderline malignancy. Although, most
of the signs are not very-specific, they become apparent when the patient has reached the
advanced stages of the disease.
• A patient of epithelial ovarian cancer is likely to experience some vaginal discharge
or bleeding which may persist.
• Formation of lump or mass in the pelvis
• Abdominal Bloating, loss of appetite and pressure on rectum as well as on the
• Pain or discomfort in the pelvis or abdomen
• Gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting, etc.
• Fatigue, weight loss and breathing problem.