Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death for women. It represents 4% of all cancers that affect women. The majority of ovarian cancer occurs in postmenopausal women. Ovarian cancer occurs in 1 in 70 women without a family history. There are certain groups of women who at a higher risk. Other than women over 50 – 55 years of age (postmenopausal), those at greater risk include:
- Women with a relative with ovarian cancer
- Women who themselves have had breast, bowel or endometrial cancer
- Women with a close relative with breast or bowel cancer
The vast majority of women with ovarian cancer are asymptomatic until the disease is at a late, often inoperable, stage. If ovarian cancer is detected early, the survival rate at 5 years is vastly improved. Screening involves a combination of transvaginal ultrasound examination and a blood test.
Ovarian cancer typically appears on ultrasound as cystic and solid areas causing enlargement of the ovary. The formation of new blood vessels is required to sustain the enlarging tumour. These vessels are also detectable using power Doppler function.