Get answers to your GYN Cancer questions.
The ovaries are two small, almond-shaped organs located on either side of the uterus. They are key components of a woman's reproductive system:
Ovarian cancers are potentially life-threatening malignancies that develop in one or both ovaries. Malignant ovarian tumors generally fall into three primary classes:
Epithelial Tumors. Epithelial tumors account for up to 90% of all ovarian cancers and therefore are the primary focus of this report. These cancers develop in a layer of cube-shaped cells known as the germinal epithelium, which surrounds the outside of the ovaries.
Germ Cell Tumors. Germ cell tumors, which account for about 3% of all ovarian cancers, are found in the egg-maturation cells of the ovary. They occur most often in teenagers and young women. Although they progress rapidly, they are very sensitive to treatments. About 90% of patients with germ cell malignancies can be cured, often preserving fertility.
Stromal Tumors. Stromal tumors, which account for 6% of all ovarian cancers, develop from connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together and that produce the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Stromal tumors do not usually spread, in which case the prognosis is good. If they spread, however, they can be more difficult to treat than others.
Ovarian cancer progresses almost silently, with vague symptoms. By the time serious symptoms do appear, the ovarian tumor may have grown large enough to shed cancer cells throughout the abdomen. At such an advanced stage, the cancer is more difficult to cure.
Ovarian cancer cells that have spread outside the ovaries are referred to as metastatic ovarian cancers. Ovarian tumors tend to spread to the following locations:
Cancer cells can also spread to other organs through lymph channels and the bloodstream.
Not all ovarian tumors are malignant. Benign ovarian cysts are common and are distinct from ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cysts typically develop in one of two ways:
Both follicular cysts and corpus luteum cysts are normal parts of the menstrual cycle and nearly always resolve within one or two cycles without treatment.
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