Ovarian Cancer


The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system. They are located on each side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Cancer of the ovaries occurs when cells grow in an uncontrolled, abnormal manner, resulting in the creation of tumors. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers develop in the epithelium, the thin layer of tissue covering the ovaries. In about three-quarters of patients, ovarian cancer is not detected until it has spread in the abdomen.


OHSU uses a wide variety of imaging techniques to detect ovarian cancer, including PET scans, CT scans and MRIs. In most cases, the results of these sophisticated studies are available within 24 to 48 hours. The CA125 blood test is also used as a marker to evaluate elevated a protein antigen found at abnormally high levels in the blood serum of women who have ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is classified based on the development of the disease. The stages are:

  • Stage I - Growth of tumor limited to the ovaries
  • Stage II- Growth of tumor in one or both ovaries
  • Stage III - Tumor involving one or both ovaries with peritoneal implants outside the pelvis and/or positive retroperitoneal or inguinal lymph nodes. Superficial liver metastasis equals stage III.
  • Stage IV - Growth involving one or both ovaries with distant metastases. If pleural effusion is present there must be positive cytology to allot a case to stage IV. Tumor spread inside the liver, equals stage IV.
  • Recurrent/Refractory- Recurrence means that the tumor has returned after initial therapy. Refractory means that the tumor fails to respond to initial treatment.


Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these modalities may be used to treat ovarian cancer at OHSU. In addition, patients have access to relevant clinical trials. The extent of a patient's disease, her age, desire to have children, and general medical condition play an important part in determining optimal treatment.