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Ovarian Cancer

At Johns Hopkins, we don't just offer the latest treatments in ovarian cancer, we develop them.  From basic science discoveries uncovering genetic and cellular mechanisms underlying the development and treatment of ovarian cancer to pioneering clinical research led by Johns Hopkins investigators, our experts have unprecedented knowledge and expertise in ovarian cancer.  The Johns Hopkins Ovarian Cancer Center combines clinical and research expertise into comprehensive care and treatment.

Ovarian Cancer Experts

Comprehensive ovarian cancer services include prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and access to the latest and most promising therapies. Ovarian cancer experts at Johns Hopkins offer unparalleled experience and knowledge about the disease in developing individualized, holistic approaches to care.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer ranks among the top in cancer deaths among women. The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age, and family history of the disease is one of the most significant risk factors.  

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Our physicians offer valuable advantages in the diagnosis of gynecologic cancers. Because it is difficult to distinguish between some types of cancerous and benign cells on biopsies, our gynecologists created a special division headed by a gynecologist who is board certified in both obstetrics/gynecology and pathology (the study of tissue and cells). The field of gynecologic pathology was pioneered at Johns Hopkins, where specialized pathologists examine all gynecologic cancer tissue samples.

Detecting Ovarian Cancer

Unfortunately, few advances have occurred in the early detection of ovarian cancer, the most virulent gynecologic malignancy. Physicians still rely on physical examination, a blood test measuring levels of CA 125 and radiologic studies. Cancer Center gynecologic pathologists were some of the first to discover that some ovarian tumors are not cancerous or precursors of cancer. These tumors, known as "low malignancy potential," can often be removed by skilled gynecologic cancer surgeons without destroying a patient's fertility. This finding has been particularly significant for women who have not completed their childbearing.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Generally, ovarian cancer does not cause many early signs until the cancer grows. Women should consult their physician if they experience pressure or fullness in the pelvis, abdominal bloating, or changes in bowel and bladder patterns that continue and/or worsen.

Current Treatments

Surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or chemotherapy may be used to treat gynecologic cancers. The treatment plan depends on a number of factors, including the type and stage of disease, the woman's age and her general health. Grants and shared research projects with the National Cancer Institute give Hopkins unique added access to new treatments being evaluated for ovarian cancer.

The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins was one of the institutions that pioneered the clinical study of two FDA-approved drugs that are effective in treating ovarian cancer. One is Taxol, the drug made from the bark of the yew tree; the other is topotecan. Our patients who are eligible and choose to participate in clinical trials frequently have access to promising new drugs for ovarian cancer.

Approximately one in every 20 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer in her lifetime. though many of these cancers are preventable, studies indicate that many women are not aware of the risks or preventative measures available. The Johns Hopkins Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service (BOSS) uses research dicoveries about the inherited predispositions and the genetic causes of these cancers to provide individualized risk assessment for women. BOSS experts discuss cancer susceptibility and risk factors, genetic testing, and screening and prevention.

New Treatment Approaches

Researchers are studying metallaprotease inhibitor, antiangiogenesis agents and other biologic-directed therapies for the treatment of ovarian cancer. These new types of compounds work by cutting off the blood supply to tumors and by interfering with the proteins and enzymes the cancer needs to grow and spread. A new three-drug combination of topoteccan, paclitaxel, and cisplatin is being used in newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer patients. The three drugs, which work independently against this cancer, appear to work in synergism when used in combination.