Ovarian Cancer

Expert Care and Treatment for Gynecologic Cancers

The Gynecologic Oncology Program is a leader in research and care for patients with gynecologic cancers.

Your care team will collaborate to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that offers the most advanced therapies and an array of supportive resources. 

Gynecologic Oncology Program

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond and becomes smaller through atrophy after menopause occurs. The ovaries produce eggs and female hormones (chemicals that control the way certain cells or organs function). 

Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.

Ovarian cancer forms in the tissues of the ovary or the fallopian tube. Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas that begin in the cells from the fallopian tube or from the surface of the ovary. Cancers that arise from the peritoneal surface, called "peritoneal cancers," are treated identically to ovarian cancer and fallopian tube cancer. Malignant germ cell tumors are a type of ovarian cancer that is much less common and begins in egg cells. 

Risk Factors 

Risk factors for ovarian cancer can include: 

  • A family history of ovarian cancer: genetic risk can be transmitted between generations, either through maternal or paternal genetic inheritance. Known gene mutations that confer increased risk of ovarian cancer and other cancers include BRCA gene mutations, Lynch syndrome genes, and other gene mutations that are less common. 
  • Hormone replacement therapy 
  • Late onset of menopause 
  • Infertility 
  • Nulliparity, or a woman who has had no children 

Signs and Symptoms 

The signs and symptoms for ovarian cancer can include: 

  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen 
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation 
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain 
  • Shortness of breath 

Diagnostic Tests 

  • Pelvic exam 
  • Ultrasound exam, abdominal or transvaginal; transvaginal ultrasound is able to see the ovaries much better than an abdominal ultrasound 
  • CA-125 assay blood test 
  • Biopsy 
  • CT (CAT) scan 

Learn about how we diagnose ovarian cancer. 


Treatment options include: 

  • Surgery 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) 
  • Targeted therapy (for certain cases) 
  • Radiation therapy (for rare cases) 

Learn about how we treat ovarian cancer.

Learn about clinical trials for ovarian cancer.

Factors Affecting Treatment Options and Recovery 

Your prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following: 

  • The stage of your cancer and whether your cancer can be operated on by a gynecologic oncology surgeon 
  • The subtype of ovarian cancer 
  • Your age and general health 
  • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has come back (recurred) 
  • The genetics of your tumor 

Read our Insight blog for more information and inspiration about ovarian cancer treatment at Dana-Farber.

Why Choose Us


If you or a loved one has ovarian cancer, the team at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers Gynecologic Oncology Program at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center is here to help. The internationally recognized team of experts at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers is dedicated to providing compassionate care and personalized diagnosis, treatment, and support to all of our ovarian cancer patients and their loved ones. 

We provide comprehensive services to patients with these cancers, including:  

  • A team of gynecologic oncology specialists who diagnose and treat hundreds of patients with ovarian cancer each year, and who are setting treatment guidelines for other physicians around the world 
  • Numerous clinical trials of emerging and novel treatments for ovarian cancer, some of which may not be available elsewhere 
  • Genetic testing and counseling and personalized early detection strategies for women and their families who have a hereditary risk of ovarian and breast cancers 
  • Access to world-renowned pathologists who specialize in gynecologic cancer diagnosis 
  • Specialized care for people with sexual health or fertility concerns, and access to a wide array of support services and survivorship care
  • Multidisciplinary care delivered by specialists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital 

Gynecologic Oncology Virtual Symposium Series

The Gynecologic Oncology Virtual Symposium Series is an ongoing series of online educational programs for patients and their loved ones. New sessions will be announced soon. 

View Symposium Recordings

Breast and Ovarian Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program

If you or your doctor thinks you are at high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, led by Judy Garber, MD, MPH, will create a personalized program to estimate your risk, and work with you and your clinical team to lower your risk as much as possible.