Ovarian Cancer

In about 90 percent of cases, ovarian cancer occurs after age 40, and most cases occur after age 60.

In its early stages, ovarian cancer usually does not cause noticeable symptoms. As the cancer progresses, signs and symptoms can include pain or a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis or lower abdomen, bloating, feeling full quickly when eating, back pain, vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause, or changes in urinary or bowel habits. However, these changes can occur as part of many different conditions. Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean that a woman has ovarian cancer.

About 10-15% of serous ovarian cancer is due to a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Identifying if a woman’s ovarian cancer is due to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation may play a role in treatment options. Individuals with Lynch syndrome also have an increased risk for ovarian cancer. A portion of ovarian cancer is due to other ovarian cancer susceptibility genes such as BRIP1, RAD51C and RAD51D.

Risk factors for inherited ovarian cancer include:

  • Breast cancer or colon cancer diagnosed before the age of 50 (especially if there is a family history of other women with young breast cancers)
  • Multiple family members with breast cancer or colon cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry (Eastern European Jewish Ancestry)
  • Prostate cancer (Gleason score greater than 7)
  • Pancreatic cancer

If you have a strong family history of ovarian, prostate, pancreas, breast and/or colorectal cancers, you should ask your doctor about a cancer risk assessment.


We do not inherit cancer – we can inherit an increased risk for cancer.