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Ovarian cancer is an aggressive gynecologic malignancy that develops in the ovaries. An important component of the female reproductive system, the ovaries are a pair of glands that produce eggs along with the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Often referred to as a silent cancer, ovarian cancer typically does not produce noticeable symptoms in its early stages. For this reason, the malignancy usually goes undetected until it has spread beyond the ovaries into the pelvis and belly. Even then, the symptoms tend to “whisper,” as they are nonspecific — such as loss of appetite and unintended weight loss — and therefore are easily attributed to other, less serious causes. To help ensure an early and accurate diagnosis, it is important to promptly discuss any unusual changes with a physician.

Treatment often involves surgery

Due to the absence of early signs coupled with the fact that there may be a significant delay between the onset of symptoms and a confirmed diagnosis, ovarian cancer is often detected at an advanced stage, when it is more complicated to treat. As a result, extensive surgery such as a pelvic exenteration may be the most effective treatment for an ovarian tumor.

What is a pelvic exenteration?

When performed to address ovarian cancer, a pelvic exenteration involves the removal of some or all the female reproductive organs, which include the:

  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Uterus
  • Cervix
  • Vagina

Additionally, a pelvic exenteration often involves the removal of the bladder, rectum or both, several pelvic lymph nodes and possibly part of the colon or anus. The second stage of the procedure consists of reconstruction, such as a urinary diversion, colostomy or vaginal reconstruction, depending on which organs were removed.

If you are currently exploring your treatment options for ovarian cancer, you probably have a lot of questions. Talking with an expert can go a long way toward calming your fears and getting you started on the right treatment as early as possible. To connect with a specialist in the gynecological clinic at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online to request an appointment. We will provide you with rapid access to a cancer expert.