What is Metastatic Ovarian Cancer?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 March 2020
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Metastatic ovarian cancer is a term used to describe ovarian cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Although the disease can spread anywhere in the body, the cells are traceable to an initial ovarian source. There are sometimes options for treating metastatic ovarian cancer, though many can cause extreme physical and psychological stress and have multiple side effects on the body.

A high percentage of ovarian cancer cases are not diagnosed until they have developed into metastatic ovarian cancer. This is often because the disease may cause few noticeable symptoms while it remains confined to the ovaries. Additionally, since there are few completely reliable tests for ovarian cancer, the illness is often misdiagnosed as a bladder or digestive disorder. Since cancer is usually more treatable if it is caught early, regular screening is recommended, as well as more frequent exams if any symptoms are detected or high risk factors exist.

Generally, metastatic ovarian cancer develops as cancerous cells in the ovaries reach an advanced state. The diseased cells begin to shed into the body, leading to the potential for development elsewhere. Commonly, the cancer begins to appear in nearby organs and systems, such as the intestines. Cells can also enter the bloodstream and move to different areas of the body, creating tumors and infecting organs.


Some symptoms may indicate a possibility of ovarian cancer, including frequent urination, bloating around the abdomen, and abnormal bleeding. These may also be signs of many other conditions, including digestive issues. Generally, though not always, ovarian symptoms will be persistent and grow worse with time, while digestive symptoms may come and go or be triggered by certain food and beverages. If ovarian cancer has become metastatic, symptoms may grow more severe and become more apparent. Depending on where the cancer has spread, new symptoms, such as tenderness, discomfort, or decreased functionality, may appear around the site of the new infection.

Treatment of metastatic ovarian cancer is often quite aggressive, since the cancer is typically advanced. Surgery and chemotherapy are both common options, and frequently used in conjunction with one another. Since advanced tumors may be too large to surgically remove, one option may be to remove as much of the cancerous mass as possible, then use chemotherapy to destroy the remaining cells. Even with this option, the chance of total recovery is quite low, and even initially successful treatments may be subject to a return of the disease.



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