In the News

The Types of Ovarian Cancer and Their Most Common Symptoms

With 21,750 new diagnoses each year and an estimated 13,940 deaths expected in 2020, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Below we dive into the types of ovarian cancer, what causes them and what symptoms to look out for.

Ovarian cancer is cancer that starts in the ovaries or at the end of the fallopian tubes next to the ovary. 

Many types of tumors can start growing in the ovaries, with some being benign, or non-cancerous. These benign tumors can usually be treated by removing one ovary or part of the ovary. 

Ovarian cancer, however, is a malignant (cancerous) tumor. The ovary is made up of many layers of cells, and the cancer can affect any one or all of these layers. 


The various forms of ovarian cancer include: 

  • EPITHELIAL OVARIAN CANCER – The most common of the three types, epithelial ovarian cancer starts in cells on the surface of the ovary. Many epithelial ovarian cancers start in the fallopian tube or peritoneal (the lining of the inside of the belly) epithelial cells, then goes into the surface of the ovary.
  • GERM CELL OVARIAN CANCER – This cancer starts in the cells that form eggs in the ovary. These rare tumors are most common in women in their teens and early twenties. There are different subtypes of germ cell tumors.
  • STROMAL CELL CANCER – This cancer forms in the tissue that makes certain female hormones and holds the ovaries in place. This is also a very rare form of ovarian cancer.


Unfortunately, ovarian cancer often does not cause any symptoms until after it has spread outside the ovary. Even then, it often causes vague symptoms that are similar to those of many other more common diseases. 

These symptoms can include the following:

  • Indigestion, heartburn, nausea or gas
  • Belly swelling or discomfort
  • Pelvic pain or cramping
  • Bloating or a sense of fullness, especially after eating
  • Backache
  • Painful, frequent or burning during urination with no infection
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Tiredness and lack of energy 
  • Loss of appetite or unplanned weight loss or weight gain
  • Vaginal bleeding or irregular periods
  • Pain during sex
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or groin

While many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems, it’s important to see your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms. 

To learn more about ovarian cancer, including diagnosis, tests and treatment options, click here