Frequently Asked Questions
The ovaries are a pair of organs that make eggs for reproduction. They also make hormones. Low-grade serous cancer usually starts in the cells that form the outer layer of tissue around the ovaries. Sometimes instead it starts in the peritoneum (the tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen and pelvis and covers much of the organs in this space) – this is called low-grade serous cancer of the peritoneum. Often low-grade serous ovarian cancer is found in combination with a borderline epithelial tumour (otherwise known as low malignant potential because it is usually non-invasive). Borderline tumours are thought to be a precursor to low-grade serous ovarian cancer.
As the cancer grows it can cause symptoms including abdominal bloating/swelling, abdominal/back/pelvic pain, change in bowel function, urinary frequency or urgency, eating less and feeling fuller, indigestion, unintentional weight loss, painful intercourse, fatigue and abnormal vaginal bleeding. If these symptoms are new, unusual or worsening and last for more than two weeks it is important to see a doctor.
Unfortunately there is no screening test for ovarian cancer and because symptoms are often not severe and also occur more frequently in less serious conditions many women go undiagnosed for a significant period of time. Diagnosis of low grade serous at stage I when the cancer is contained within the ovary, and is often curable, is very rare.
Read more about ovarian cancer symptoms.
Initial treatment usually consists of surgery to remove visible cancer and the reproductive organs and one or a combination of chemotherapy and hormone (anti-estrogen) therapy.
Unfortunately low-grade serous ovarian cancer does not always respond to these treatments, and if it does the effect is often temporary. When the cancer recurs one or more treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, anti-hormone therapy and medications called MEK inhibitors and VEGF inhibitors may be tried to slow the growth of the cancer and prolong life.
We need ways to make the current treatments more effective, and new treatments that will kill the cancer better.
If you have been recently diagnosed with low-grade we recommend you read the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines for Patients: Ovarian Cancer for more detailed treatment information
Support information including peer support groups and national advocacy organisations can be found on our support page
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Researchers collect (with permission) samples of patient tumours to study in the lab. They look for biomarkers of individual cancers to determine what makes some people's cancers respond better than others to certain treatments, and create cell lines (basic laboratory models of cancer cells that will grow outside the body) to look for ways to to make existing treatments work better, and create new treatments. They also use mice to learn how the cancer behaves in mammals (because in real life cancer is surrounded by a complex environment that includes blood vessels and the immune system). Promising treatments are then tested in women with cancer.
Researchers are also interested in developing clinical databases to track patient outcomes nationally/internationally. This involves collecting longitudinal data (medical information over a long period of time) on large numbers of women with low-grade serous and helps doctors learn what treatments give the best outcomes.
International research groups investigating low-grade serous often work together on projects.
- novel combinations of existing medications
- new medications
- using the body's immune system to fight the cancer (immunotherapy)
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: In 2017 an immunotherapy treatment called CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell) therapy was approved. Many people who just a year earlier would have been given a terminal diagnosis are cancer free because of this treatment.
Breast cancer: In the 1970s just four in ten women with breast cancer survived beyond ten years, now eight in ten do because of advances in chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy drugs.
Yes - it accounts for 3-6% of all ovarian cancers but makes up only 1% of ovarian cancer research
In 2017 prostate cancer was 200x more researched than low grade serous ovarian cancer
Your support is important. Thousands of women rely on the generosity of individuals to fund lifesaving research into low grade serous ovarian cancer
Cure Our Ovarian Cancer does not receive any financial inducement from our partner organisations.