Ovarian Cancer Care

The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) Gynecologic Cancer Program is Georgia’s leading provider of gynecologic (GYN) cancer care, diagnosing and treating more new cases of ovarian cancer than any other hospital in Georgia. Northside Hospital ranks among the top five women’s cancer programs in the country.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a type of gynecologic cancer that starts in the ovaries. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs that produce eggs.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Ovarian cancer symptoms are often subtle. Women and their doctors often blame the symptoms on other, more common conditions. By the time the cancer is diagnosed, the tumor has often spread beyond the ovaries.

If the following symptoms occur on a daily basis for more than a few weeks, see a doctor:

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Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Older women are at highest risk of developing ovarian cancer. Most deaths from ovarian cancer occur in women age 55 and older and half of all ovarian cancers are found in women 63 years of age or older.

Risk Factors for developing ovarian cancer include any of the following:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol use
  • Having first child after age 35
  • Fertility treatments
  • Inability to carry any pregnancy to term
  • Family history of ovarian cancer, breast or cervical cancer (due to defects in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes)
  • Estrogen replacement therapy without the use of progesterone for 5 years or more
  • Having had breast cancer

Learn more about ovarian cancer risk factors.

According to the American Cancer Society, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. When ovarian cancer is found early, about 94 percent of patients live longer than five years after diagnosis. To detect ovarian cancer at its earliest stage, women should have annual well-woman doctor visits, including regular pelvic exams. A primary care provider or gynecologist can recommend the right female cancer screenings and diagnostic tests based on age, lifestyle and family history.

There is no guaranteed prevention against ovarian cancer, but maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise and avoiding smoking and other tobacco products will reduce the risk ovarian cancer.

As part of our comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and education, Northside offers Built To Quit, a smoking and tobacco cessation program offering resources to help individuals quit smoking and stop using other tobacco products. For additional information, or to register for a cessation class, please call 404-780-7653 or email smokingcessation@northside.com.

Cancer Genetics Program

Northside Hospital’s Cancer Genetics Program is available to patients interested in genetic counseling and testing due to strong personal or family histories of gynecologic, colorectal or breast cancers. Our team of certified genetic counselors help patients assess, understand and reduce the risk of developing certain types of genetically influenced cancer such as ovarian cancer. For additional information, please call 404-851-6284 or email genetics@northside.com.

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women. It causes more deaths than any other type of GYN cancer.

Northside’s Gynecologic Cancer Program physicians primarily use the following tests to diagnose ovarian cancer:

Team of Ovarian Cancer Specialists

The strength of NHCI’s Gynecologic Cancer Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated, specially trained gynecologic oncology specialists who provide individualized care for each ovarian cancer patient. Northside’s GYN cancer care team offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research and compassionate support for cancer patients.

Our dedicated and experienced gynecologic oncologists and clinical experts are amongst the most experienced in the country. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s physicians are committed to providing comprehensive cancer care in a compassionate setting.

Our GYN cancer team of experts includes:

  • Gynecologic oncologists (provide surgery and systemic treatments)
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • GYN nurse navigators
  • Clinical research nurses

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Multidisciplinary 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Northside Hospital provides a forum for these cancer specialists to review radiology and pathology images and discuss the best Ovarian Cancer Treatment Options, including clinical trials, and develop an evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. By prospectively discussing cancer cases during conference, patients get the benefit of more than a dozen expert medical opinions.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment Options

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Cancer Program leads the way in groundbreaking surgical procedures for better outcomes and less invasive treatments of ovarian cancers.

Our Program offers patients dedicated women-only surgery suites for breast and GYN surgery as well as an inpatient unit designed specifically for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer, the size and shape of the tumor, the age and general health of the woman, and her desire to have children in the future.

For more information about ovarian cancer treatments, please expand the content below.

Northside Hospital is the Southeast leader for total robotic procedures performed. Multiple minimally invasive laparoscopic and traditional surgical procedures are available at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute to treat a wide array of gynecologic conditions.

Surgery is the main treatment for most ovarian cancers and each surgical option and technique will have different goals. The depth of the procedure depends on how far the cancer has spread as well as the patient’s general health. For women of childbearing age who have certain kinds of tumors and whose ovarian cancer is in the earliest stage, it may be possible to treat the disease without removing both ovaries and the uterus. Patients should speak to their doctor for more in depth details about what type of ovarian cancer surgery is the best option for their needs.

Chemotherapy or “chemo” uses medication to destroy cancer cells by stopping growth. For treatment of ovarian cancer, a doctor may recommend chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor; after surgery to reduce the chance of it spreading; or as treatment for a cancer that has recurred.

Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer is most often a combination of two or more drugs, given intravenously (IV) every 3-4 weeks. Giving combinations of drugs rather than just one drug alone seems to be more effective in the initial treatment of ovarian cancer.

At Northside's infusion centers, chemotherapy is provided on an outpatient basis by registered nurses who are certified in chemotherapy administration.

Click here for questions to ask your doctor about treating ovarian cancer with chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to damage or kill cancer cells.

Radiation therapy is rarely used as the main treatment for ovarian cancer, but can be useful in treating areas if the cancer has spread

Learn more about what questions patients should ask their doctor about radiation therapy.

Click here to learn more about NHCI’s Radiation Oncology Program

Hormone therapy is the use of hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to fight cancer. This type of therapy is often used to treat ovarian stromal tumors, but rarely used to treat epithelial ovarian cancer. Types of hormone therapy used to treat ovarian stromal tumors include:

  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists
  • Tamoxifen
  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Progestins

As researchers have learned more about changes in cancer cells that cause them to grow out of control, they have developed new types of drugs that target some of these cell changes. These targeted drugs are designed to block the growth and spread of cancer cells, including ovarian cancer cells. These drugs work differently from chemotherapy drugs, which attack all cells that are growing quickly (including cancer cells).

Targeted therapy sometimes works even when chemotherapy does not. Some targeted drugs can help other types of treatment work better. Targeted drugs also tend to have different side effects than chemo.

Targeted therapies for ovarian cancer include angiogenesis inhibitors and PARP inhibitors.

Clinical trials are studies that involve people and are a critical part of oncology research. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, or treat cancer. Patients who take part in cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge about cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments. During these trials, these patients also receive state-of- the-art care from Northside’s nationally renowned oncology team.

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Learn more about NHCI cancer treatment options

Ovarian Cancer Support & Survivorship

Ovarian cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why, at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute Gynecologic Cancer Program, we have oncology nurse navigators to guide patients every step of the way after cancer diagnosis and through treatment. Northside’s registered oncology nurses work with radiologists, surgeons, oncologists and other specialists to coordinate each cancer treatment plan, educating and supporting cancer patients to make informed decisions.

Our oncology nurse navigators facilitate access to Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s comprehensive portfolio of cancer patient support and survivorship services to ensure each ovarian cancer patient receives coordinated and personalized care.

To learn more about oncology patient navigation, please call 404-300-2800 or email nurse.navigator@northside.com.

Network of Hope / Woman to Woman - Gynecologic Cancer Mentoring Program

The Network of Hope (NoH) program connects cancer patients with trained volunteers who have also faced cancer and embraced life afterward. Volunteer cancer survivors and caregivers are available to mentor cancer patients throughout their treatment.

In 2015, as part of a grant received from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute launched the Woman to Woman program as a specialty area within Network of Hope. Woman to Woman provides expanded mentoring support specifically for women with gynecologic cancers.

For more information about the Woman to Woman program please call 404-303-3676.

Learn more about all of our NHCI Support & Survivorship services available