What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells form causing tumor(s) in one or both of a woman's ovaries. As the tumor grows, the abnormal cells multiply forming malignant tumors, cancerous growths, or cancers. If the cancer is untreated, the abnormal cells spread to other organs and tissues (metastasize).
What Are the Types of Ovarian Cancer?
Epithelial tumors: These tumors arise from a layer of cells that line the ovary called the germinal epithelium. A majority of all ovarian cancers are epithelial. These are most common in women who have been through menopause (aged 45-70 years). These epithelial tumors are rarely found without at least some evidence of spread. Chemotherapy is used in addition to surgery to treat these cancers.
Stromal tumors: Stromal tumors develop from connective-tissue cells that help form the structure of the ovary and produce hormones. Usually, only one ovary is involved. These account for 5-10% of ovarian cancers. These tumors typically occur in women aged 40-60 years. Often, surgical removal of the tumor is the only treatment needed. If the tumor has spread, though, the woman needs chemotherapy.
Germ cell tumors: Tumors that arise from germ cells (cells that produce the egg) account for about 15% of all ovarian cancers. These tumors develop most often in young women (including teenaged girls). Although 90% of women with this type of cancer are successfully treated, many become permanently infertile.
Metastatic tumors: Only 5% of ovarian cancers have spread from other sites to the ovary. The most common sites from which they spread are the colon, breast, stomach, and pancreas.
Not all transformations or changes are "bad" or malignant. A benign transformation can produce tumors. Benign tumors can grow in place, but do not have the potential to spread. The ovaries can develop benign tumors, as well as malignant tumors or cancers. Noncancerous ovarian masses include abscesses or infections, fibroids, cysts, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis-related masses, ectopic pregnancies, and others.