Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. Ovaries are reproductive glands found only in females (women). The ovaries produce eggs (ova) for reproduction. The eggs travel through the fallopian tubes into the uterus where the fertilized egg implants and develops into a fetus. The ovaries are also the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. One ovary is on each side of the uterus in the pelvis.
- Epithelial tumors begin from those cells that protect the external surface of the ovary. Most of the ovarian tumors are epithelial cell tumors.
- Germ cell tumors start from the cells that produce the eggs (ova).
- The Stromal tumors begin to build in structural tissue cells that carry the ovary together and create the female hormones progesterone and estrogen.
Most of these tumors are benign (non-cancerous) and never spread beyond the ovary. Benign tumors treated both ways either by removing the part of the ovary that contains the tumor or the complete ovary.
Malignant (cancerous) or low malignant potential ovarian tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and can be fatal. Their treatment is discussed later in this document.
Epithelial ovarian tumors
Malignant epithelial ovarian tumors
Cancerous epithelial tumors are called carcinomas. Most of the ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas. When someone says that they had ovarian cancer, they usually mean that they had this type of cancer. These tumor cells have several features (when viewed under a microscope) that can be used to classify epithelial ovarian carcinomas into different types. The serous type is by far the most common, but there are other types of a mucinous, endometrioid, and clear cell.
The tumor sometimes called undifferentiated if the cells do not look like any of these four subtypes. Undifferentiated epithelial ovarian carcinomas spread frequently and grow more quickly than the other types. These subtypes classify epithelial ovarian carcinomas, and they also have a grade and a stage.
The grade rank out the tumor based on how much it appears like normal tissue on a scale of 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 epithelial ovarian carcinomas have a better prognosis (outlook) and look more like normal tissue. Epithelial ovarian carcinomas Grade 3 observed less like normal tissue and have a poor outlook. Grade 2 tumors look and act in between grade 1 and 3.
The tumor stage describes from where it begin in the ovary how far it has spread. Epithelial ovarian cancers spread to the lining and organs of the pelvis and abdomen (belly) first. It may also lead to the build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity (called ascites). As it becomes more advanced, it may spread to the lung and liver, or, rarely, to the brain, bones, or skin.
Other similar cancers to epithelial ovarian cancer
Primary peritoneal carcinoma
Primary peritoneal carcinoma (PPC), rare cancer nearly relevant to epithelial ovarian cancer. During surgery, it looks similar to epithelial ovarian cancer that has dispersed through the abdomen. Under a microscope, PPC also looks just like epithelial ovarian cancer. Other names for this cancer cover primary peritoneal carcinoma (EOPPC), extra-ovarian (meaning outside the ovary) and serous surface papillary carcinoma.
PPC seems to develop from cells in the lining of the pelvis and abdomen. This lining is called the peritoneum. These cells are very similar to the cells on the surface of the ovaries. Some experts believe that PPC may also start in the cells lining the fallopian tubes.
Like ovarian cancer, PPC tends to spread along the surfaces of the pelvis and abdomen, so it is often difficult to explain exactly where this cancer first started. This type of cancer can occur in women who still have their ovaries, but it is of more concern for women who have had their ovaries removed to prevent ovarian cancer. This cancer does rarely occur in men.
Symptoms of PPC are similar to those of ovarian cancer, including abdominal pain or bloating nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and a change in bowel habits. Just like ovarian cancer, PPC may also raise up the blood level of a tumor marker called CA-125.
Women with PPC get similar treatment as those with widespread ovarian cancer. It could include surgery to remove as much of cancer as possible (a process called debulking that is discussed in the section about surgery), followed by chemotherapy like that given for ovarian cancer. Its outlook is likely to be similar to widespread ovarian cancer.
Fallopian tube cancer
It is another rare cancer that is similar to epithelial ovarian cancer. It begins in the tube that carries an egg from the ovary to the uterus (the fallopian tube). Like PPC, fallopian tube cancer and ovarian cancer have similar symptoms. The treatment for fallopian tube cancer is similar to ovarian cancer, but the outlook (prognosis) is somewhat better.
Symptoms And Types
Ovarian cancer often starts silently, not showing symptoms until its later stages. Ovarian cancer warning signs cover continuous cramps or pain in the back or belly, bloating, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and nausea. Depending on the cancer stage, ovarian cancer treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy.
Treatment And Care
Chemotherapy, Surgery, and Radiation also used for the treatment of ovarian cancer, depending on the disease’s stage.