What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in a woman’s ovary. Ovaries are the female reproductive glands responsible for the reproduction of female gametes known as ova for reproduction. They also aid in the release of female hormones known as progesterone and estrogen. Lastly, the ovaries are located on each side of the uterus in the pelvis. (1)

This type of cancer ranks fifth regarding cancer deaths among women. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in every 75 women are likely to have ovarian cancer throughout their lifetimes. Furthermore, 1 in 100 women is likely to die due to this type of cancer. (2)

Type Of Ovarian Cancer Tumors

The type of ovarian cancer a patient depends on the location of the cancer cells. Furthermore, three types of ovarian cells may become damaged and turn into cancerous cells. The three types of ovarian cancer tumors include:

  • Epithelial tumors: This type of cancer starts from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary and are a common type of ovarian tumor.
  • Stromal tumors: Secondly, stromal tumors start from the organic tissue cells that hold the ovary in place and aids in the production of female hormones progesterone and estrogen.
  • Germ cell tumors: Lastly, this tumor starts from the cells that produce the ova (eggs).

However, most of these tumors are non-cancerous (benign) and may never metastasize. The best way for doctors to treat these tumors is to have them surgically removed and treated with medications.

Epithelial Ovarian Tumor

This is the most common type of ovarian tumor. Furthermore, these can be benign epithelial tumors, tumors of low malignant potential and malignant epithelial ovarian tumors. Other types of cancers which are quite similar to epithelial ovarian cancer include; primary peritoneal carcinoma and fallopian tube cancer

Germ Cell Ovarian Tumors

Germ cells are cells that form the female reproductive gamete known as ova. Thankfully, most of the tumors related to the germ cells are usually benign. However, some can be life-threatening because they occur as malignant cells. This type of tumor include teratomas, endodermal sinus tumors (yolk-sac tumor), choriocarcinomas and dysgerminomas. This kind of tumor can also occur as a mix of more than a single sub-type.

Stromal Tumors

This type of ovarian tumor is more common in older women than in young girls. It is a rare form of ovarian cancer that is usually associated with abnormal vaginal bleeding especially after menopause which may come as a result of stromal tumors producing estrogen – a female hormone. It can also lead to early puberty (growth of breasts and onset of menstrual flow) in young girls. (3)

This tumor can also lead to the formation of male hormones (testosterone) in the female which can cause abnormal menstrual periods. The stromal tumor can result in sudden severe abdominal pain in a case where the tumor starts to bleed.

Furthermore, this type of tumor can occur as malignant tumors, and these include granulosa cell tumors (the most common type of stromal tumor), granulosa-theca tumors and Sertoli-Leydig cell tumors. However, some may occur as benign tumors, and these include Thecomas and fibromas.

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