In the United States, about 1 in 70 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime. More women in the US die from ovarian cancer than from all other gynecologic cancers combined, including cervical and endometrial (uterine) cancers.
Ovarian cancer remains difficult to detect. Although the 5-year survival rate is approximately 90% when ovarian cancer is detected in its earliest stages, 80% of cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage where 5-year survival is around 30%.
Currently, no reliable screening test exists for ovarian cancer.
The causes of ovarian cancer are not known. Some factors that may increase the risk of ovarian cancer include the following:
- aged 50 years and above
- family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer
- having had cancer before (e.g., breast, uterine, colon)
- inherited gene mutation (e.g., in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent)
- having never been pregnant
- use of hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years, especially if using estrogen only
Some people with ovarian cancer do not have these risk factors, and others people who have these risk factors do not go on to have ovarian cancer.
Other risk factors such as early onset of menstruation or late menopause are not well proven.
Fertility treatments that include stimulation of ovulation may also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, but this is also not well proven and difficult to confirm.