Ovarian cancer: Teenagers and young adults


Ovarian cancer is an uncommon cancer in teenagers and young adults. Generally, it develops in older women, usually over the age of 40. However, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer in any age group.

The most common symptom of ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults is abdominal pain or discomfort, which can be caused by a tumor or other health issues. Other symptoms which can indicate ovarian cancer include bloating, feeling full quickly after eating, changes in urination and bowel habits, and unexplained changes in weight. If these symptoms are present, it is important to contact a doctor for further assessment.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to successfully managing ovarian cancer. Treatment options can include surgery to remove the affected area, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The success of the treatment will depend on the stage the cancer has reached, the size of the tumor, and the age of the patient. It is important for anyone who suspects they may have ovarian cancer to get checked out as soon as possible.


The symptoms of ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults can vary greatly and can be similar to those of other conditions. However, common symptoms may include:

  • Pain or pressure in the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs
  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or frequency
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual bleeding from the vagina
  • Nausea, vomiting, or indigestion


The exact causes of ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults remain unknown. However, some factors that may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer include family history of ovarian or other reproductive cancers, certain genetic mutation such as BRCA1, hormone replacement therapy, obesity, and infertility. Additionally, some lifestyle factors have been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, such as smoking, use of talc-based body powder, and having more than two full-term pregnancies.

Risk factors

There is no known single cause for ovarian cancer, but certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing the disease. For teenagers and young adults, the risk factors for ovarian cancer may include:

  • Family history: Having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with ovarian cancer increases the risk.
  • Genetic mutations: Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight increases the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Age: Increases in age are associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Personal Health History: Women with a history of infertility, endometriosis, or polycystic ovary syndrome may be at an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
  • Hormones: Exposure to certain hormones such as estrogen and progestin may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.


Ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults is typically diagnosed using imaging methods like ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans. Imaging can be used to look for tumors and changes in the shape of the ovaries. In addition, laboratory tests such as CA-125 and HE4 levels are used to measure the amount of certain proteins found in the blood that can be elevated with ovarian cancer. A biopsy may also be needed to confirm or rule out ovarian cancer.


Subtypes of Ovarian Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults may include:

  1. Germ Cell Tumors: These tumors typically occur in younger women and are less common than other types of ovarian cancer. They are derived from immature reproductive cells and most commonly occur in the ovary and the fallopian tube. They can be benign or malignant but since they are almost always malignant, they must be treated swiftly.
  2. Dysgerminoma: Uterine Dysgerminoma is a very rare type of ovarian cancer in young adults. It is a cancer of the reproductive cells and most commonly affects young women, although it can also affect men and women of any age.
  3. Mucinous Cystadenocarcinoma: Mucinous Cystadenocarcinoma is another type of ovarian cancer and is usually found in young women. It is a tumor that grows slowly in the ovary and the fallopian tube and is made up of cyst-like structures filled with mucus. This form of ovarian cancer is often difficult to diagnose and can be aggressive, so early detection is important.
  4. Sex Cord-Stromal Tumors: These tumors are usually benign, but can be malignant as well. Sex cord-stromal tumors are derived from the cells that make up the outer layer of the ovary and are most common in young adults. They can be difficult to diagnose and treat, so it’s important to get regular check-ups.


For ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults, treatment will often depend on the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and the type of ovarian tumor. The main treatments for ovarian cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.

Surgery: In the case of ovarian cancer, surgery typically involves removing the tumor, the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and the surrounding tissue. In some cases, lymph nodes or other organs may also be removed.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is typically given after surgery in order to shrink any remaining cancer cells. In some cases, the chemotherapy can be prescribed before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor, making it easier to remove.

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses drugs that boost the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer cells. This type of therapy can be used alone or combined with other treatments.

Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that are designed to target specific cancer cells and stop them from growing and spreading. This type of therapy can also be given in combination with other treatments.

In addition to these treatments, teenage and young adult ovarian cancer patients may also benefit from clinical trials, which are designed to test new or experimental treatments.


Teenagers and young adults can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding hormone replacement therapy, and limiting the amount of processed meat and red meat consumed. Additionally, they can increase their intake of foods that contain antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, and strive to reduce the amount of stress in their lives. Finally, abstaining from smoking and minimizing alcohol consumption may also help to lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults. Teenage and young adult female patients often present with a later stage diagnosis due to a lack of apparent symptoms. This is particularly true for teens and young adult patients with ovarian cancer that has not spread beyond the ovary, as this type of cancer may not cause any recognizable symptoms until it has grown in size and spread to other areas of the body. Additionally, for physiological reasons, teenage and young adult female patients may have a more difficult time undergoing some of the treatments used for ovarian cancer, including radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Furthermore, due to psychosocial factors, such as a lack of family support and the need to maintain schooling or employment, young female patients may not be able to adequately devote time and energy to their cancer treatment and management. As a result, they may have a higher rate of recurrence or progression of their cancer compared to older adult patients.


Nutrition is an important factor in the management of ovarian cancer in teenagers and young adults. Eating a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and reduced saturated fats can help to support the body’s natural defenses and promote the healing process. Eating foods rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, such as cruciferous vegetables, can help fight off free radicals and other compounds that can damage cells and increase cancer risk. Additionally, adequate intake of vitamins and minerals can help support the immune system and increase energy levels, which can be beneficial during treatment. Eating a balanced diet can also help to minimize side effects from treatments, such as nausea, fatigue, and appetite loss. Proper nutrition can be an essential part of helping teenagers and young adults with ovarian cancer to manage their disease and overall health.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is extremely important for teenagers and young adults when it comes to reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by improving metabolic functioning and reducing chronic inflammation, two established risk factors for the condition. Additionally, regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. Finally, physical activity increases the levels of antioxidants that can help protect the body from oxidative stress, which is another risk factor for ovarian cancer. Overall, physical activity is incredibly important for teenagers and young adults for reducing their risk of ovarian cancer.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/cancer/cancer-types-in-teenagers-and-young-adults/ovarian-cancer-teenagers-and-young-adults
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7290868/
  4. https://www.cancer.gov/types/aya
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20375941

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