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Marijke Vroomen Durning, R.N.

Marijke Vroomen Durning, R.N., is a freelance writer in Montreal, Canada. Her work has been published in many outlets over the years, both online and in print. Marijke often describes her writing as the bedside teaching nurses want to do but rarely have the time for. Her experience working in healthcare has taught her what types of information people need and how to share it. One such need is medication and drug safety, so Marijke wrote the book," Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Drugs and How to Take Them Safely."  

Marijke is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and the Authors Guild. She is also a member of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and is registered with the Ordre des infirmiers et infirmières du Québec (Order of Nurses of Quebec).

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What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Here’s what you need to know about what ovarian cancer is and how it’s diagnosed.

Conditions & Treatments

Infographic What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer. Click the image to open the PDF

Ovarian cancer, cancer of the ovaries, is often called a silent killer because it has no symptoms in the early stages and signs like bloating can be easy to ignore.

Rates of ovarian cancer are dropping in the U.S. but it is still one of the most common cancers in women.

About 1 in 78 women in the U.S. will get ovarian cancer in their lifetime.

Anyone with ovaries can develop ovarian cancer, but some groups have higher risk

  • Most new diagnoses are among women 63 years or older
  • Ovarian cancer affects more white women than Black women.

There are more than 30 subtypes of ovarian cancer. The 3 main types are:

  • Epithelial ovarian carcinomas (85%-90% of cases): Most common, often diagnosed in advanced stages. Affects the outer surface of the ovary.
  • Germ cell tumors (2%): Usually affects women in their teens or 20s. Starts inside the ova (eggs).
  • Stromal cell tumors (1%): The rarest form, often found in the early stages. Develops in the tissues around the ovaries.

Ovarian cancer stages and survival rates

Ovarian cancer is given a stage when it’s diagnosed. The earlier the stage, the higher the chances of successful treatment.

  • Stage 1: Earliest disease, tumor hasn’t spread
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread to nearby organs, like the uterus
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread beyond nearby organs to the lymph nodes or the lining of your abdomen
  • Stage 4 (metastatic ovarian cancer): Cancer has moved to the lungs, liver and/or other distant organs

Ovarian cancer symptoms

In the earliest stages, ovarian cancer symptoms can be so subtle they may be mistaken for other issues like irritable bowel syndrome, a urinary tract infection or even constipation. By the time symptoms are more noticeable, the disease has often spread. This is why early detection is vital.

The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Pelvic/lower back painFeeling full quickly or difficulty eating
  • Urgent and frequent urination
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Fatigue/low energy levels
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding/discharge

Ovarian cancer tests

Blood tests

Tumor markers: Helps identify cancer cells in your body

Genetic testing: Looks for BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations that indicate higher risk for developing hereditary ovarian cancer

Complete blood count (CBC): Provides information about your body’s health

Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP): Provides information about metabolism and chemical balance


Ultrasounds, computed tomography scan (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Shows what’s happening inside your body — if there’s a mass, where it is, and how large it is.

If you have concerns or symptoms — especially if you have a family history of ovarian cancer — speak with your healthcare provider. Be proactive with your health!

This resource was created with support from Merck.

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