Understanding Your Type of Ovarian Cancer


There are several different types of ovarian cancer, some more common than others. The type you have will partly determine your treatment options and prognosis. These are the major types of ovarian cancer.

Malignant Epithelial Ovarian Carcinomas

This is the most common type of ovarian cancer. Nearly 85 to 90% of ovarian tumors are this type. This is a cancer that occurs in the cells on the surface of the ovaries, called the epithelium. Although women of any age can develop it, it most commonly occurs in women over the age of 60. It also has cells that have certain features that can be seen under a microscope. This enables doctors to further classify these cancers. Tumors with cells that look more normal are believed to be less aggressive and less likely to spread. They are often called tumors of low malignant potential, or simply LMP tumors.

Germ Cell Cancer

Germ cell tumors are an uncommon type of ovarian tumors. Less than 2% of ovarian tumors are this type. They start in the cells that form eggs in the ovary. They are usually found in adolescent girls and young women. And they usually affect only one ovary. Unlike other types of ovarian cancer, which don't tend to have symptoms early on, germ cell cancers cause pain and discomfort at the beginning stages. That means they are often found early, when they have not spread. Even if they have spread, the cure rate is high.

Stromal Cell Cancer

Stromal cell cancer is an uncommon form of ovarian cancer. It starts in the cells that make female hormones and hold the ovarian tissues together, called connective tissue. Like germ cell cancer, stromal cell cancer causes pain and discomfort in the early stages, and therefore is likely to be diagnosed early. Another common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Also, like germ cell ovarian cancer, stromal cell cancer accounts for about 1% of all ovarian cancers. These tend to be slow-growing tumors. One type of stromal cell cancer occurs primarily in girls. Another type occurs in grown women of any age, but more often in women who are past menopause.

Primary Peritoneal Cancer

This is a type of cancer that is much like epithelial ovarian cancer, but it starts outside the ovaries. It grows from the cells that line the pelvis and abdomen, called the peritoneum. This type of cancer looks very much like epithelial ovarian cancer. Sometimes it is hard to tell where the cancer started. Women who have had their ovaries removed can still get this type of cancer.

Fallopian Tube Carcinoma

This is an extremely rare type of cancer that starts outside the ovaries. It is found in one or both of a woman's fallopian tubes. It is treated like ovarian cancer.