In the United States, ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than all other gynecologic malignancies combined. Worldwide each year, more than 225,000 women are diagnosed, and 140,000 women die from this disease (Jemal, 2011). Of these, epithelial ovarian carcinomas comprise 90 to 95 percent of all cases, including the more indolent low-malignant-potential (borderline) tumors (Quirk, 2005). The remainder includes germ cell and sex cord-stromal tumors, which are described in Chapter 36. Due to the similarities of primary peritoneal carcinomas and fallopian tube cancers, they are included within this section for simplicity.
Approximately one quarter of patients will have stage I disease and an excellent long-term survival. However, there are no effective screening tests for ovarian cancer and few notable early symptoms. As a result, two thirds of patients have advanced disease when they are diagnosed. Aggressive debulking surgery, followed by platinum-based chemotherapy, usually results in clinical remission. However, up to 80 percent of these women will develop a relapse that eventually leads to disease progression and death.
One in 78 American women (1.3 percent) will develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime. Because the incidence has been slowly declining since the early 1990s, ovarian cancer has dropped to the ninth leading cause of cancer in women. In 2011, 21,990 new cases are estimated to develop in the United States. However, few patients are diagnosed early and subsequently cured. As a result, 15,460 deaths are expected, and ovarian cancer remains the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death (Siegel, 2011). Overall, the average age at diagnosis is in the early 60s.
Numerous reproductive, environmental, and genetic risk factors have been associated with the development of ovarian cancer (Table 35-1). The most important is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and 5 to 10 percent of patients have an inherited genetic predisposition. For the other 90 to 95 percent with no identifiable genetic link for their ovarian cancer, most risk factors are related to a pattern of uninterrupted ovulatory cycles during the reproductive years (Pelucchi, 2007). Repeated stimulation of the ovarian surface epithelium is hypothesized to lead to malignant transformation (Schildkraut, 1997).
Table 35-1. Risk Factors for Developing Epithelial Ovarian Cancer |Favorite Table|Download (.pdf)
Table 35-1. Risk Factors for Developing Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
Residence in North America and Northern Europe
Personal history of breast cancer
Ethnic background (European Jewish, Icelandic, Hungarian)
Nulliparity is associated with long periods of repetitive ovulation, and patients without children have double the risk of developing ovarian cancer (Purdie, 2003). Among nulliparous women, those with a history of infertility have an even higher risk. Although the reasons are unclear, it is more likely to be an inherent ovarian predisposition ...