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Ovarian cancer

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer starts when cells in one or both ovaries, the fallopian tubes or the peritoneum grow and divide abnormally. Cancer of the fallopian tube was once thought to be rare, but recent research suggests that many ovarian cancers start in the fallopian tubes. There are many types of ovarian cancer, but the three most common types are epithelian (developing from cells on the outside of the ovary), germ cell (developing from cells that prodcue eggs) and stromal (developing from supporting tissues within the ovary).

You can access further information about ovarian cancer, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is ovarian cancer?

In 2020, 267 Victorian females were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Currently, ovarian cancer is diagnosed at a rate of 4.8 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of ovarian cancer is 65 (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 0.8% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.3% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020, ovarian cancer was the 23rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 21st most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victorian females.

Figure 1: Distribution of ovarian cancer incidence in 2020, by age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Figure 2: Distribution of ovarian cancer incidence in 2020, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2020, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Ovarian cancer morphology

Figure 4 provides a summary of the different types of cells (morphology) which have caused ovarian cancers among all cases. Most ovarian cancer tumours, 38.9%, present as Serous carcinoma tumours.

Figure 4: Distribution of ovarian cancer morphologies between 2011-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Geographical variance in ovarian cancer by local government area

Figure 5 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of ovarian cancer, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of ovarian cancer.

Figure 5: Variation in the incidence of ovarian cancer for the period 2016-2020, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Ovarian cancer in people born overseas

Figure 6 shows the age standardised incidence rates of ovarian cancer in Australian-born Victorian females compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2016 to 2020. The highest age standardised incidence rate of 5.3 was observed in those born in the Australia and New Zealand region and lowest rate of 1.8 was observed in people born in the South and Central America region.

Figure 6: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for ovarian cancer in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2016-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Ovarian cancer five-year relative survival

Figure 7 shows the change in 5-year survival for ovarian cancer, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for ovarian cancer between 1985-1989 and 2015-2019 from 36% to 47%.

Figure 7: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of ovarian cancer in five year brackets, from the period 1985-1989 to 2015-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

This webpage was last updated in May 2022