Ovarian Cancer

This information is useful for adults and older adults
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Why Yale Medicine?
  • We are determined to catch ovarian cancer early and treat it with the latest therapies.
  • Our Discovery to Cure has helped determine which screening tests best spot early cancer.
  • Participants in our clinical trials can receive access to promising new drugs or treatments.

The most effective tool physicians have in treating ovarian cancer is early detection. But this is not always easy, explains Yale Medicine's Elena Ratner, MD, because ovarian cancer is known as "the cancer that whispers."

"When women get diagnosed, what they usually want to know is how long have they had this cancer," says Dr. Ratner, co-chief of Gynecologic Oncology and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. "Frequently, women will not have any symptoms until they get diagnosed and their cancer is at more advanced stages."

Catching ovarian cancer early greatly improves the odds a woman will make a full recovery.  At Yale Medicine, our approach to ovarian and other gynecological cancers is rooted in a program called Discovery to Cure, which combines cutting-edge laboratory research with a team approach to patient care using the latest early-detection methods.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer among women in the United States. There is a one-in-75 chance of developing some form of this disease during a woman's lifetime. There are three main types of ovarian cancer, and they differ based on the location of the cancer cells.

The most common type, called epithelial carcinoma, represents about 85 to 90 percent of cases. In this form, the cancer cells start growing in the outer layer of cells in the ovaries. The second type is germ cell cancer, which occurs in just 2 percent of cases and typically appears in girls and teenagers.

Germ cell cancer develops in egg cells inside the ovaries and can usually be treated without harming fertility. The third and most rare type, stromal cell cancer, starts in the connective tissue that holds the ovaries together and occurs in only 1 percent of cases.