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Ovarian Cancer Services at UPMC in Central Pa.

Our surgeons at our Women's Health Center in Central Pa. are among the best in the nation at performing minimally invasive surgeries to treat ovarian cancer. Regardless of the route of surgery needed for your individual case, our Gynecological Oncologists are sub-specialty trained experts on surgical of ovarian cancer.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is any cancerous growth that may occur in different parts of the ovary. The majority of ovarian cancers arise from the epithelium (outer lining) of the ovary. The ovaries, which produce eggs, are positioned on each side of the uterus. Ovaries are the main source of a woman's female hormones—estrogen and progesterone. More than 20,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

In early stages, there may be no symptoms for ovarian cancer and the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be easily confused with other conditions. These symptoms include:

  • Vague abdominal pain and pelvic discomfort.
  • A feeling of being bloated or noticing that clothes don't fit as well as they once did.
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full even after a light meal.
  • Gas and/or indigestion that persists over time.
  • Unusual weight loss or gain.
  • A change in bowel habits, or a frequent urge to urinate.
  • Unexplained fatigue or back pain.
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you have symptoms such as these that won't go away, and cannot be explained by other reasons, report them to your doctor.

Ovarian Cancer Screening

Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer are at an increased risk of getting the disease. If you are at high risk for ovarian cancer your doctor may perform the following screenings:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Transvaginal ultrasound
  • Blood test for the antigen CA-125, OVA-1, HE-4, ROMA which is a protein found in the cells of some kinds of ovarian cancer. This is not a perfect screening test, however, because it is not elevated in all women with ovarian cancer. And if it is elevated, it does not necessarily mean you have ovarian cancer.

Women with an increased risk of ovarian cancer may consider surgery (removal of the ovaries) to prevent it.

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

The definitive diagnosis for ovarian cancer is made at the time of surgery. The doctor may also order other tests, such as:

  • Ultrasound.
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan).
  • Lower gastrointestinal (GI) series. X-rays of the colon and rectum using a contrast dye called barium.
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP). X-rays of the kidneys and ureters, taken after the injection of a dye.
  • Blood test. To measure a substance in the blood called CA-125 (a tumor marker that is often found to be elevated in the blood of women with ovarian cancer).
  • Biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples are removed from the ovary for examination under a microscope. This is done to see if cancer or other abnormal cells are present. The diagnosis of cancer is confirmed only by a biopsy.

Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer

Your treatment for ovarian cancer depends on the results of your clinical evaluation by our experts, and the extent of the disease, called the stage. Your doctor may also consider your age and general health when making recommendations about treatment. If childbearing is an issue for you, your cancer care team will consider this as well.

Surgery. The primary treatment for ovarian cancer is usually a total hysterectomy to remove the ovaries, uterus and cervix as well as surrounding tissue to which the cancer has spread. The surgeons at the Women's Cancer Center specialize in traditional open surgery and minimally invasive and robotic assisted surgery to treat ovarian cancers. Minimally invasive surgery involves tiny incisions in the abdomen, which reduces possible complications and shortens the recovery time. (This is not applicable to everyone and our experts will guide you through the decision process.)

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. The oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual. Usually, chemotherapy is given intravenously.

Intraperitoneal Therapy. Another way to treat ovarian cancer is through intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. This type of chemotherapy is given directly into the abdomen through a long, thin tube called a catheter. It is only used for women with ovarian cancer that has spread to the inside of the abdomen.

Treatment for Benign Ovarian Tumors

A benign ovarian tumor is a noncancerous growth on or inside an ovary. It is a solid mass and not a cyst filled with fluid. It is called benign because the abnormal cells in the growth do not spread to other parts of the body. The surgeons at the Women's Cancer Center are expert at the removal of these benign tumors using the latest minimally invasive procedures.

Contact Us

Need more information? Our friendly staff can assist you. To get in touch, request information or call our West Shore Office at 717-221-5940 or East Shore Office at 717-230-3026 for more information or to make an appointment.

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